THE

IDEA OF PREHISTORY
by Glyn Daniel

The World Publishing Company CLEVELAND AND NEW YORK

Published by

The World Publishing Company
Street, Cleveland 2,

2231 West iioth

Ohio

Library of Congress Catalog Card

Number: 63-8781

FIRST EDITION

WP363
Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, except for brief passages included in a review appearing in a

Copyright Copyright 1963 by

1962 by Glyn Daniel.

The World

newspaper or magazine. Printed in the United Stares of America.

Contents

Preface
i.

9
the Flood
13

The Fog and
The
Prehistory

n.

Beginnings of Archaeological

38
Prehistory
Prehistory

m. The Victorians and
rv.

60
8z

The Development of Modem
Diffusion

v.
vi.

and Distraction

104

The

Idea of Prehistory in the Study of
Politics

Language and Race, and in
vn.
Prehistory Prehistory

128
151

and the Historians and the Public

vm.

177

Books for Further Reading
Index

203
209

Plates
(Between pages 96 and 97)

i.

FRERE'S

HAND AXES

n.
HI.

SCHLIEMANN'S EXCAVATIONS AT TROT

UPPER PALEOLITHIC CAVE ART, NIAUX
AIR PHOTOGRAPHS OF MAIDEN CASTLE, DORSET

IV.

V.

MEGALITHIC TOMBS

VI.

TOLLUND MAN
PORTRAIT HEAD OF A CELTIC WARRIOR FROM MSECKE-ZEBROVICE, CZECHOSLOVAKIA

CYCLADIC FIGURINE FROM SARDINIA

Preface

When
an

the University of Birmingham honored me with to give the Josiah Mason Lectures (founded by the Rationalist Press Association) for the
invitation

year 1956-7, 1 thought it might be interesting to devote the eight lectures to a discussion, necessarily brief and sketchy, of the development of the idea of prehistory

Western European, and particularly British, thought. had already written a short history of the development of prehistory between 1840 and 1940 in my Hundred Years of Archaeology. The Mason lectures seemed to provide a good opportunity for isolating the important events in the history of that hundred years and relating them to what went before and what came
in
I

after.

These lectures are printed almost exactly as they were given, and are records of the spoken word. I have added to them a few footnotes and some suggestions
for further reading, and included eight plates to illustrate various points in the general argument. thanks to the It gives pleasure to record here

me

my

University for inviting me to give these lectures, and my appreciation of the kindness and hospitality of individual members of that University while I gave them, notably the Vic&Chancellor and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Charles Meade, and Professor Sargant Florence.

GLYN
St. John's College

Cambridge

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

The Fog and the Flood

The

first

man

to use the

word
this

prehistory seems to have

been Daniel Wilson, and

was

just over

a hundred

years ago, in 1851, in the title of his book The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland. In the preface

to the second edition of this book, published twelve Wilson refers to "the application of the term prehistoric introduced if I mistake not for the first time in this work." To the best of my knowledge
years later,

was the

Daniel Wilson was not making a mistake and 1851 first time that prehistory was introduced into the English language. The Oxford 'English Dictionary records the stages by which the word came into reusing
later

was spectable and general usage. Sir Edward Tylor it in his Primitive Culture in 1871; seven years

Mr. Gladstone is using it, and finally, it becbmes a in respectable word The Times mentions prehistory 1888 and Nature follows suit in 1902. It is not only in England but on the Continent in

14

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

France, Switzerland, Germany, the Scandinavian counthat, during the second half of tries, Spain, and Italy
as a conscious
past.

the nineteenth century, prehistory came into existence and separate aspect of the study of man's

The word used was

naturally not the same; the

French spoke of

prthistoire, the Italians of preistoria,

the Germans had the word Vorgeschichte, while the Danes had the very nice word oZdtid old times. And
this is of course what prehistory is concerned with; the old or oldest times in man's past the very earliest moments in that long story of human development

which grows in complexity and historicity from the jpread of the Roman Empire to the present day. In England itself the word prehistory was not immediately accepted with enthusiasm. Other names were suggested, of which one was antehistory. Sir John Lubbock seriously considered using this word when he was writing the book that was eventually entitled Prehistoric Times, and which, published first in 1865,
did so

much to popularize prehistory. He wisely decided against this word, and, although it was of course spelled with an e and not an i, it is fortunate that the
dropped. Others, in the middle of the nineteenth century, and nowadays, have complained that prehistory was a stupid name, because it was essentially

name was

a misnomer; it meant, logically and etymologically, the time before history, and surely, it was argued, there was, strictly speaking, no time in the past of man before

he had any history. History was essentially human, unless one referred to natural history. What was prehistory, they argued, but the earliest past of history? This is, I suppose, logically correct; not that logic seems to enter very much into nomenclature; names most often grow up and are not carefully thought out

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

15

But it is true that we normally use the word history in two senses, as when we say the history of man, meanthe whole of man's and ing past, history sensu stricto,

when we mean

the part of man's past which we know about because he has written down details of it not

necessarily always truthfully or correctly in inscriptions on stones and tombs, in diaries, state papers,
treaties,

memoirs, and books. In
normally

stricto

we

history,

and

fact, by history sensu in usual parlance written I imagine that most of you still mean writ-

mean

ten history

when you speak

of history.

Now

it is,

of

course, prewritten history that

we mean when we

speak

of prehistory, and it was the development of the study of man's past before he began to record it himself in symbols that can now be read, that had come to such

a stage a hundred years ago that a special word had to be found for it: the word prehistory. The whole history of man had, of course, been studied long before Daniel Wilson spoke of prehistory. There is, we must all admit this, a natural, normal, human interest in origins and beginnings. In the world
of sixteenth-century German history, the past of man, or universal history, was subdivided according to the four World Empires, i.e., Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome-^which was to last until the end of the world.

This was what is known as the Four Monarchy System. It was, surprisingly enough, philologists and not historians who introduced the idea of ancient, medieval,

and modern

history;

and

this

is

the division

we

find in

An

Universal History from the Earliest Account

of Time produced in London in thirty-eight volumes between 1736 and 1765. What, then, happened in the mid-nineteenth century was that a fourth division was added to the human past, and from then on we have

l6
that

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
history, history in its widest sense,
is

been thinldng of

human historyas

divided

into

prehistory,

ancient history, medieval history, and modern history. And by the way, when I say "we have been thinking/' I am afraid I mean people concerned with ancient history, archaeology,

general

and anthropology. It is our universities are and public

true that the
only, rather

slowly, getting used to the idea of the antiquity of man and the existence of prehistory. Universities have not necessarily been in the van of intellectual progress.

In the

first

of his Ford Lectures at Oxford in 1907

Professor Haverfield said that the universities

and

I

think he meant by that phrase at that moment Oxford and Cambridge had never been interested in archae-

connected with

and that our greatest archaeologists had not been universities. This was so then; it is less so now; but we still have a long way to go before we teach effectively in our British universities the sciences of man. When that time comes prehistory will take its
ology,

proper place in British education.

But my object in these lectures is not to fulminate against lie neglect of prehistory in our educational system; it is rather to discover what sort of picture
people have given at different times in the last century or morfr of man's prehistoric past. It is only too true, as we all know, that history varies with the historian

who

recounts

it,

and with the

state of

the subject. were brought up at school to believe that there were immutable historical facts, and find
up, that they are as mutable as the interof who write about them, and as varythose pretations the as models which those writers assume. So it is ing

We

development of

when we grow

with prehistory; the prehistory of man has varied very much with the prehistorian and with the state of de-

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

iy

velopment of our knowledge, and with the preconceptions brought to bear on the archaeological record
as
it is

fair,

being translated into historical contexts. It is therefore, to speak of Worsaae's prehistory, of

Gabriel de Mortfllet's prehistory, of Gordon Childe's It is with prehistory, of Nazi and Marxist prehistory.
ideas of prehistory that we shall be concerned in these lectures, and also the reason behind

these

and other

the various prehistories reasons which lie partly in the and disposition of the prehistorian those prejudices thinkbasic our color we as may, preferences which, try

and whose origin ing as well as our emotional thought; and tell can no man partly in the state of clearly
knowledge of the material which the prehistorian
interpreting.
is

The

state of the material record

can color

and control the
and

activities prehistorian's interpretative

without any consideration of his
predispositions.

own

preconceptions

We have used the word material advisedly, and we must here be clear at the outset of our discussions tomaterial which the pregether what we mean. The historian uses which he interprets is, by definition, and by fact, unwritten. It is the unwritten remains of the early past of man, the mute, silent witness of the of prehistory tools, origins and early development
weapons, houses, temples, paintings, tombs, farms, in a word it is all archaeologifields, forts, watermflls cal material. It is then, first a record of artifacts, of made and fashioned by man, and, second, a

things record of associated features that are not artifacts, such evidence of the flora and fauna that surrounded early

man and
and
hair.

that

he

utilized, or his

own bones and

skin

The

prehistorian

is

then an archaeologist, indeed has

l8

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

to be an archaeologist, and an archaeologist all the time; so much so that quite often the phrase prehistoric

archaeology is used synonymously with prehistory. For example the Chair of Prehistory at Edinburgh for
that is what it is now held by Professor Stuart Piggott, and formerly by Professor Gordon Chflde, is called the

Abercroniby Chair of Prehistoric Archaeology. Rather
better

too often one finds people people who ought to know who pretend not to understand the distinction

between prehistorian and archaeologist, and of course it would only be splitting very thin hairs indeed to say that there was any difference between a prehistorian

and a
tial

prehistoric archaeologist But there is an essendifference between prehistory and archaeology; an
is

archaeologist

a person

who

studies the material re-

mains of the past with the aim of wresting the facts of history from them, and he can work in any period from the Upper Paleolithic of the caves to the Late Medieval of the Gothic cathedrals or the late nineteenth
century of the archaeology of disused railways. Sir Alfred Clapham used to say that archaeology began when living memory ended; many others have said it is much later. Each week or if we are fortunate, twice

a week

we

and dumped in municipal

see our domestic refuse being carted off refuse dumps a stratified

accumulation of gin bottles and tin cans, broken teacups and rotting cabbage stalks for archaeologists of the future to study. The archaeological record the material remains of the past starts yesterday when you throw an empty tobacco tin into the wastepaper basket, or this

morning when the roadman was shoveling
cart.

a broken milk bottie into his

There are of course specialized archaeologists who deal with paintings and houses and ecclesiastical archi-

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD 19 And there is a very curious tradition which is tecture. met with in some parts of the museum world, and
have often had occasion to come across in dealing with the television program Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? that splits up the material remains of the past

which

I

into archaeological objects, antiques, and bygones. Yet an Italian goffering iron and a seventeenth-century sil-

ver tankard are as

much

archaeology as a

La

Tne

sword or a ruined megalithic tomb. Let me ask you not to be confused in your thinking on this point by books which offer you introductions to archaeology and turn
out to provide introductions to prehistoryto a part only of the enormous field which is, properly speaking, archaeology. All material remains are archaeology, but the archaeologist cannot, or should not, usually practice a catholicity in time and space; he must needs
specialize and is to be pardoned his specialized interests are the
It is
if

he sometimes thinks whole of archaeology.

is

the archaeologist who specializes in prehistory that our concern in these lectures. He has been coming into his own very slowly since Daniel Wilson gave him a name in 1851. I have said that the archaeologist is concerned in

out of the intractawresting facts of historical meaning ble material left behind, that he is concerned in creatof the material remains. It ing historical contexts out was not always so with the student of antiquities. Antiin Western Europe with the renquarian studies began aissance of learning. Sixteenth-century scholars in Italy found and studied the classical civilizations of Greece

and

Rome

At the same

Camden

visible antiquities

not only in literature but in archaeology. time, in England, men like William and Humphrey Lhuyd were studying the of Britain. It may well have been

2O

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

that they were impelled to a study of antiquity by the dissolution of the monasteries and the dispersal of the
religious libraries,

the beginnings of the

that they sought in the past for new and flourishing nation of

Tudor England. Whatever was the reason, or the sum was in England at that time what Camden called a '"back looking curiousity," and although he recognized that there were some "which wholly contemne and avfle this study of Antiquity," he himself felt otherwise. "In the study of Antiquity (which is always accompanied with dignity," he wrote, "and hath a certaine resemblance with eternity), there is a sweet food of the mind well befitting such as are of honest and noble disposition." But for many the attraction of antiquities lay in less
total of the reasons, there

philosophical channels.
earliest antiquaries.

The

collectors are

among our

Earl of Arundel, the Duke of Charles I, were all collectors; so was Buckingham, King to Queen Henrietta once Tradescant, gardener John

The

known

Maria, and it is his Closet of Curiosities, popularly as Tradescant's Ark, which formed the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum. Collecting became something of an obsession, and in his PoZyoZbion, written in
1622, Drayton complains that there was "nothing esteemed in this lunatique age, but what is kept in cabinets."
It

was the age of the
dilettanti

collectors that

produced the

word

delighted in the arts, and we should not underestimate the aesthetic factor in the development of antiquarianism. The cultivation of

those

who

taste

had a very

large influence in the discovery of the

in a past. This aesthetic factor often worked for good AnHamilton's William Sir It was surprising way. et Romaines, published tiquitfa Etrusques, Greques,

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

21

in 1766-7, that inspired the potter Wedgwood with new ideas, and in recognition of this inspiration the

Wedgwood
Etruria.

works in Staffordshire

still

bear the

name

In 1707 a group of men interested in antiquities and history formed themselves into a club. They used to

meet

in the

Young

Devil and Bear taverns in the

Tavern Society was bom the Society of Antiquaries of London, the oldest society of its kind in the world it received its Royal Charter in in seniority only to the Royal Society 1751 and second the societies of England. But its memlearned among were divided as to bers why they were studying were they impelled by the back-looking curiantiquities: or was it as collectors or as dilettanti that they osity, to and contributed papers to the Sociecame meetings
Strand; and out of
this
ty's

journal Archaeologia,

first

published in 1770?

One

Fellow, Horace Walpole, had no doubts and fiercely castigated those who had no aesthetic feeling and no discrimination in their study of man's past. The second volume of Archaeologia set him off. "Mercy on us," he wrote to William Cole, on looking through it, "what a cartload of bricks and rubbish and Roman ruins they 7 have piled together '; and again, in another letter, "the antiquaries will be as ridiculous as they used to be;

and
they

since
will

it is

impossible to infuse taste into them,

be

as dry

may
more

revive
life is
.

what

and dull as perished, but

their predecessors. One it will perish again, if

not breathed into it than it enjoyed origiBishop Lyttelton used to torment me with nally. banows and Roman camps, and I would as soon have attended to the turf graves in our Churchyards. I have
. .

no

curiousity to

know how awkward and clumsy men
arts

have been in the dawn of

or in their decay."

22

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

But there were others who had this "curiousity," even when they might, as we may now, acknowledge the force of some of Walpole's criticism. There are many of us at the present day who are tormented by, and torment others with, Roman camps and hand axes,
flints and megalithic tombs. Is our torment and do we do it because we are still inveterate collectors, at a mature age preferring flints and tombs to the stamps and butterflies of our youth, or are we really and honestly historians? We shall see as we go along what our modern idea of prehistory really is. In the eighteenth century there was no agreement. Then

Mesoliihic

necessary

Walpole could

the Society of Antiquaries "the midwives of superannuated miscarriages," Edward Balme could say "the world calls us old women," and Samuel Foote could have a great success in the Haymarket Theatre in 1772 with a play in the third act of
call

which the Nabob

visits the Society of Antiquaries preceded by four black porters bearing the twelve lost books of Livy, a piece of lava from the last eruption of Vesuvius, a box of petrifactions, bones, beetles and

butterflies,

and a green chamber-pot described as a sarcophagus or Roman urn dug up from the Temple of Concord. These things could happen then, but at this same time a new awareness of the real purpose of antiquarian study was coming into existence. In 1793 the. Reverend James Douglas published his Nenia Britannica or the Sepulchred History of Great Britain. It was an account of several hundred barrows which he had excavated. Douglas's digging would not pass modern tests, but his purpose in excavation was clear and sound. "If the study of antiquity be undertaken in the cause of History," he wrote in his preface, "it will rescue itself from a reproach indiscriminately and fastidiously be-

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

23

stowed on works which have been deemed frivolous/' "In the cause of History"; these were Douglas's words and this was the change that was taking place in the

kte eighteenth and
terial

early nineteenth century.

The ma-

collectors

remains of the past were being studied not by and dilettanti, not because the curious or

the beautiful were being cultivated, but by men who were consciously trying to wrest historical facts from
the material of archaeology. In their excavations in Wiltshire, William Cunnington of Devizes and Sir Richard Colt Hoare were trying

hard and very consciously to eschew the romantic, acof their predecessors as quisitive, or dilettanti approach described antiquaries. In 1803 William Cunnington "in tie Plain on himself as digging barrows Salisbury

hopes of meeting something which might supersede Colt Hoare said conjecture." In his Ancient Wiltshire not seek among I shall "we speak from facts not theory. an of Romance the fanciful origin of our Wiltregions shire barrows."

Real prehistory began with men like these striving to understand man's prehistoric past from the surviving material remains of that past But of course there was man's prehistory, about his beginspeculation about
before writing, long before nings and development In a way the theme of prehistoric archaeology began. before archaeology, and our this lecture is prehistory ideas of prehistory the of some with concern is now
that existed before scholars
as their source.

The

had turned to archaeology Greeks, of course, had speculated

about early man. In the eighth century B.C. Hesiod in his Works and Days speaks of a time in man's past when bronze had not been superseded by iron. Lucretius in his

De Rerum Natura

asserted that

man

first

24

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

used his nails and teeth, and stones and wood and fire, then copper, and still later iron gained in popularity.

The Greeks

and Stages in man's past the Age of Reason, the Golden Age, the
also

had other

ideas of Ages

Heroic Age, for example.

The
lations

Christian religion provided an answer to specu-

about man's early

his

own image on the

history. God formed man in sixth day of creation. Eve was

one of Adam's ribs and together they were expelled from the park of Eden bearing Cain and Abel. Adam lived for nine hundred and thirty years. His seventh descendant was Methuselah, who lived to be nine hundred and eighty-two years old. Methuselah's grandson was Noah, and it was when this Noah was six hundred years old almost all the members of this first original family seem to have been extremely
created from

long lived
earth.

From

that the Great Deluge of water flooded the the exact dates provided for these lives
to
fix

many have tried
Creation of

the date of the Flood and of the

Armagh, that from the evidence in the Old Testament it was possible to declare that the earth had been created in 4004 B.C. These calculations and dates, published in Ussher's Annals of the Ancient and New Testaments (1650) were widely accepted; the year 4004 B.C. was
inserted in the margins of the Authorized Version of the Bible where, to quote A. P. White's History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, it was "soon practically regarded as equally inspired with

himself. James Ussher, Archbishop of calculated in the early seventeenth century

Man

the sacred text

itself."

Ussher did not say in what part of the year 4004 B.C. he thought the creation of man had taken place. Bede in the eighth centay and Vincent of Beauvais in the

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

2J

thirteenth thought that it must have been in the spring. Others favored "September at the Equinox"

and among them was Dr. John Lightfoot, Master of St. Catharine's and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who published his A Few and New Observations on the Book of Genesis, the Most of Them Certain, the Rest Probable, All Harmless, Strange and Rarely Heard Of Before, in 1642. Later Dr. Lightfoot refined his dating and declared heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together in this took the same instant and clouds full of water place and man was created by the Triniiy on October
.

.

.

nine o'clock in the morning." may perhaps see in these dates and time a prejudice of a Vice-Chancellor for the beginning of an academic
23,

4004

B.C. at

We

year and the beginning of an academic morning, but, at least, Lightfoot did provide an exact and absolute

chronology which must have been very comforting. If you accepted these comfortable dates and most people did in the late seventeenth and eighteenth cen-

turythen the

The

civilizations

extent of man's prehistory was not long. of Greece and Rome had flourished

before Christianity, and before them again the empires of the Near East The Four Monarchy System could
easily take up a great deal of the time of man on earth; the time before the four World Empires of Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome did not need to be long, and

was

surely long enough to fit in whatever archaeological remains were shown to be pre-Roman, pre-Greek, pre-

and pre-Persian. one moved away from the Four Monarchy the area, gap of time that was prehistory, even on the Ussher-Ughtfoot chronology, became larger and larger. In the British Isles there were four thousand yawning
Assyrian, But as

26

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

years of prehistory before Julius Caesar and Claudius. What was to be put into these four millennia? Or did

Britain

have no prehistory? The

earliest British anti-

quaries just invented peoples to

up this early blank in the record of our island story, but their inventions, as was necessary for their successful adoption, bore some
fill

relationship to
Isles.

Sir

known historical facts outside the British Thomas Kendrick, in his British Antiquity

(1950), has given us a splendid summary of antiquarian speculation about British prehistory from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, and I have gone over some

of these speculations in
British

my 1954 Rhys Lecture to the Academy, Who Are the Welsh? The Historic Britonum of Nennius, written in the

ninth century AJX, gave us a prehistory beginning with Brutus, grandson of Aeneas, settling in Britain in the
third age of the world and producing the first regular inhabitants of these islands since the Flood. Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century made Brutus,

Prince of Trojan Blood, land in 1170 B.C. at Totnes. This Troynovantian prehistory of Britain certainly
flourished right up to the sixteenth century in Britain. like Sir John Price, Sir Winston Churchffl, Wil-

Men
liam

Wynne, Daniel Langhome, and Robert Sherwood

in the seventeenth century were all for Greeks and Trojans in British prehistory. Even as late as 1674 the

Oxford Almanack had Brute heading the list of kings of Britain; two years later he had been replaced by William the Conqueror.

Other antiquaries preferred a more direct Biblical origin to the Trojans and Greeks. One of these was the Reverend Henry Rowlands, Vicar of LJanrhidian in Anglesey, whose Mona Antiqua Restaurata was published in 1723. "Antiquity recordeth and the consent of

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD

27

nations celebrateth the sons of Japhet to have been the first planters of Europe/' he wrote; Britain was "peopled by these men very soon after the flood." Seven
years before Rowlands wrote these words in English in his Anglesey rectory another Welshman had pub-

Drych y Prif Oesoedd the minor ages and here we find a prehistory of Wales beginning in the Tower of Babd and the invasion of Britain by Corner, the grandson of Noah.
lished a
called

book

of the

first

The
by
or to

Phoenicians were canvassed for our prehistory

those

who preferred them to Greeks and Trojans, Noah and Japhet John Twyne, Headmaster of

Westminster School, died in 1581; his De Rebus AZbionicis Britannicus atque Anglicis was published by his son nine years after his death. Twyne brought the Phoenicians to Cornwall looking for tin. He argued that the Welsh word caer was Phoenician, that Welsh coracles were Phoenician; so was the dark blood of
the Sflures
even the dress of the Welsh

women

in the

sixteenth century was, according to of an old Phoenician form of dress

Twyne^ a survival though it was of

course a provincial survival of English court dress.

Samuel Bochart in his Geographic Sacra (1646) and Aylett Sammes's Britannia Antiqua Ittustrata (1676) were full of the Phoenicians and the civilizing role they played in Western Europe and particularly the British Isles; and there is no doubt that many people at the
present day still think of the Phoenicians as having come to Britain and having affected considerably our

eady civilization. Other antiquaries preferred the Lost Tribes of Israel to Phoenicians and Trojans, and, in the nineteenth at Tara Royal century, the British Israelites excavated Tara in Ireland, searching for the Ark of the Cove-

28
there.

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
The

nant, which they, in

all sincerity, believed lay buried Ten-Tribists, like the advocates of the Phoenicians, survive to the present day, and I have often been asked in the Welsh countryside perhaps

my

surname has something to do with

this

whether

the Welsh, and, therefore, of course the ancient preRoman inhabitants of Britain, are not really the Lost
Tribes of
Israel.

But it is unquestionably the Druids who became the most popular explanation of our prehistory in prearchaeological days. It was the antiquary John Aubrey

who

floated the Druids into our

new

historical con-

was in connection with a monument which is still to many people "Druidic," and which suffers at midsummer from visitations of modern outsciousness,

and

it

group

cultists calling themselves "Druids/' I refer, of course, to Stonehenge. King James I became interested in Stonehenge and commissioned Inigo Jones to ex-

amine it: he prepared a treatise on the subject in 1620 which was not actually published until thirty years later. He declared that it was a Roman temple. In 1663, Dr. Carleton, a court physician, insisted that it was built by the Danes for the consecration of their kings.
John
cian.
it

Webb

restored Stonehenge to the

Romans. John

Twyne and
to

Sammes naturally made it PhoeniNicholson made it Saxon. Bolton declared Bishop be the tomb of Boadicea. "I come in the rear of
Aylett

wrote Aubrey, "by comparative evidence to give monuments [Avebury, Stoneand the were like] henge, Pagan temples; which was not made out before; and have also with humble suball,"

clear evidence that these

mission to better judgment, offered a probability that they were Temples of the Druids." I must go on quoting what he says because, though written in the seven-

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD
teenth century

29

John Aubrey's dates were 1626-97 it is most germane to our purpose here of understanding prehistory before archaeology. 'This inquiry, I must confess/' he says, "is a groping in the dark; but although I have not brought it into clear light, yet can I affirm that I have brought it from an utter darkness to a thin mist, and have gone further in this essay than anyone before me." Dr. Plot, the historian of Staffordshire and the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, believed in the Druids, and so did Toland (1670-1722) who wrote a very odd history of the Druids. But it is William
Stukeley

who

is

our arch-Druidist, our arch-romantic,

and

Druidomania has been admirably portrayed by Professor Stuart Piggott in his biography of him. Stukeley's books on Stonehenge and Avebury appeared in 1740 and 1743, and here he made them Druidic monuments. Indeed as he grew older everything was
his

Druidic. Piggott gives a fine account of how in 1754 Stukeley visited the Princess Dowager in Kent House

what we know now to be a Late Bronze Age tools. They talked of acorns, and mistleoaks, Druids, patriarchal religion, home carryreturned and of toe, Stonehenge. Stukeley in the of branch oak a garden it was picked up ing
to discuss

hoard of socketed axes and oiher

He passed the house of a friend, Mrs. Peirson, and by a servant sent in the oak bough as "a present from the royal Archdruidess, to her sister Druidess"; and his journal goes on, "My Lord Archacorn-heavy, symbolic.

druid Bathurst ordered

me

to

meet him

at dinner."

Piggott remarks, "on this wonderful * everyone was a Druid/'

As autumn day,

What
1 S.

I

have been saying

will, I

hope, bring

home

PIGGOTT, W3&mx Stukeley (1950), 170.

JO
to

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
you the problem of the antiquaries of the pre-archae-

and
it

ological period. Everything had to belong to something to something clearly named and historical. One

could not confess failure about the early past of man; had to be peopled by someone, and it did not really

matter a great deal whether they were Danes, Romans,
Greeks, Trojans, Noah and Japhet, Israelite tribes, Phoenicians, or Druids. They had to be nominate; they

had

be named people to whom one could turn confidently. Here was no time for the innominate uncertainties of modern prehistory. Even the Egyptians were canvassed as the progenitors of the British and this well before the days of Rendell Harris, Elliot Smith, and W. J. Perry. Charles
to
is

Vallancey

a good example of the eccentric

anti-

cultivated the Egyptians. His dates are quaries he was an engineer in Ireland and rose to 1721-1812;

who

the rank of

full general.

He

wrote on the origins of

Irish, which he compared with Kalmuck, Punic, the language of the Algonquin Indians, and later with Egyptian, Persian, and Hindustani. One of his books was called The Ancient History of Ireland Proved from

the Sanskrit Books. As the writer of Vallancey's life in the Dictionary of National Biography says, a little uncharitably, of Vallancey's writing, "the facts are never trustworthy and their theories are invariably extrava-

gant" To Vallancey the Egyptians were all over Ireland and Britain; even the great Irish megalithic tomb of New Grange, dating from perhaps 2000 to 1600 B.C., was a Mithraic temple. He found an inscription on the walls of New Grange which he declared to be partly " Cadmean and partly Egyptian, and read it as 'Angus/ the name of an Ardb-Draid, or more likely 'Anghein/ the 'Holy Ones/" Poor Charles Vallanceyl he was

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD 31 near the broad lunatic fringes of antiquarian certainly
thought But he had one great merit; his work called forth the wonderful parody published in 1790 under
the
title

of

mackumpshaugh, and
grateful.

Eymetomena or The Antiquities of Killfor that we must be eternally

Vallancey had made New Grange Egyptian. In 1735 Thomas Molyneux, Professor of Physick in the University

tomb.

of Dublin, wrote about this remarkable stone He was very critical of Irish writers who "deduce

their stock from generations near the flood . . . invent antediluvian stories, and a fable of a niece of Noah himself landing in this island." For Molyneux, New

Grange was a Danes-Mount "raised in honour of some mighty prince or person of the greatest power and dignity in his time." Forty years later New Grange was visited by Governor Pownall. He drew particular attention to a stone with the engraving which Charles Vallancey had curiously translated but which Irish archaeGeorge Coffey, have thought motif. Pownall was sure that it was stylized ship are evidently neither that the and "characters. writing nor "I have Saxon." Punic Irish, persuaded myself,"
ologists in later years, like

to

be a

he goes on, "that

this inscription is Phoenician

and

contains only numerals," and was part of a "marine or naval monument erected at the mouth of the Boyne

by some Eastern people to

whom

the parts of Ireland

were well-known." But one of the great interests to us in our present inquiry of Governor Pownall is that at the very same time when he is writing in terms of fixed historical named peoples, he also had a wider and more general idea of life in prehistoric times, and was prepared to discuss prehistory in terms of unnamed hypothetical

32

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

groups of people. In his general account of New Grange published in that very Volume II of Archaeologia. in

1773 which had

made Horace Walpole
which

so
I

writes this interesting long passage cross, must quote in extenso:

he

This globe of earth hath, according to the process of its nature, existed under a successive change of forms and been inhabited by various species of mankind, living

under various modes of life, suited to that particular which they existed. The face of the earth being originally everywhere covered with wood, except where water prevailed, the first human beings of it were Woodland-Men living on the fruits, fish, and
state of the earth in

game of the forest. To these the land-worker succeeded. settled on the land, became a fixed inhabitant and increased and multiplied. Where-ever the land-worker

He

came, he, as at this day, eat out the thinly scattered
race of

Wood-Men.

Now,
an

here, in

Woodland-Men and Land-Workers,

is

entirely different kind of prehistory from that which dealt in Trojans and Phoenicians and Egyptians. Where

did

it come from? It seems to me to be part and parcel of the philosophical speculations about the origins and development of man, language, and society associated

with what have been called the Scottish primitivists who flourished in the middle and second half of the eighteenth century, and mainly, as their ngme suggests, in
Scotland. Professor Piggott has drawn attention to the appropriateness of that episode in Thomas Love Peacock's Crochet Castle when, at the end of a most convivial dinner,

Mr. McQuedy repeatedly tries to read a 2 ." paper which begins "In the infancy of society . In the eighteenth century Scottish thinkers were in.

*

Antiquity, 1955, 153.

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD
terested in the infancy of society,

33

One who was Thomas Blackwdl, who held
of man.

prehistory especially so interested was

and in the

the Chair of Greek

at Marischal College, Aberdeen, from 1723 to 1757.

BlackwelFs pupil was James Burnett (1714-99),

took the

title

of Lord

but always underneath an amiable, generous, and kindhearted man; the learned suppers he gave once a forthis colleagues

Lord of Session. he never sat with
with the
clerks.

who Monboddo when he became a Monboddo was indeed a strange man;

He was

night are famous. In 1780 he started visiting London regularly and there often met and talked with George
III. He considered the carriage an engine of effeminacy and idleness so went on horseback with a single servant. There is a story of him hailing a coach during a rainstorm to carry his wig, while he continued to walk. Monboddo's great work On the Origin and Progress of

Language was published in six volumes between 1773 and 1792, and his Ancient Metaphysics in another six volumes between 1779 and 1799. It was in these books that he set out the view that the orangutan was a class of the human species and its want of speech was acci-

we were born with tails was a world-wide league of quick-witted midwives who had prevented this great truth from
dental.
believed, too, that

He

and that

it

being known hitherto.

Lord Monboddo's contemporaries, not unnaturally, thought him most eccentric and treated his views with the utmost derision. He met Dr. Johnson during the
lattefs tour of the Hebrides, at
cardineshire. Indeed

Monboddo

in Kin-

has been described by a contemporary as "an Elzevir edition of Samuel Johnson." Johnson himself did not like Monboddo and held

Monboddo

him and

his views in contempt.

He

said:

"It

is

a

34

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

pity to see Lord Monboddo publish such notions as he has done: a man of sense and so much elegant learning. There would be little in a fool doing it; we should

only laugh; but

when

a wise

man

does

it

we

are sony.

Other people have strange notions, but they conceal them. If tibey have tails, they hide them; Lord Monboddo is as jealous of his tail as a squirrel." Now there are two things of especial interest to us here. First, Monboddo had some interesting ideas, of a general philosophical nature, about the origin and development of man. But the second point of interest is the attitude of Dr. Johnson, who thought not only that Monboddo was silly and odd, but that it was wrong and vain and useless to speculate about such things as the origin of man and society.
Arthur Lovejoy has argued, in his discussion of the Scottish primitivists, that Monboddo and Blackwell got their ideas from the medieval notion of an ordained
universe of purposeful and unfolding plan the notion known in the postmedieval world by such names as the

Great Chain of Being a concept in which everything from the lowliest object to man had a place in the framework.8 Monboddo and the Scottish primitivists
conceived a prehistory out of these philosophical specu-

Governor PownalTs Woodland-Men and LandWorkers were part of these philosophical postulates. Dr. Johnson, on the other hand, was sure that such postulates were absurd. Speaking sharply of Monboddo's views, he said: "Sir, it is all conjecture about a thing useless, even if it were known to be true. Knowllations.

edge of
*

all

kinds

is

good. Conjecture, as to things use-

On the Great Chain of Being see ARTHUR LOVEJOY, The Great Chain of Being (1936) and C. C. GILLISPIE, Genesis and Geology (Harper Torchbook edition, 1959) .

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD
ful, is

35
fours,

good. But conjecture as to what would be useless to know, such as whether men went all is

upon

very idle." There is something quite fundamental here; for Dr. Johnson there was no prehistory, there could
prehistory. In the words of the late Stanley Casson: "History to Johnson was recorded history. He could not see further back than the written word. For to him the written word had the value of Holy

be no

could Dr. Johnson be blamed? Could he be blamed for saying: "All that is really known really of the ancient state of Britain is contained in a few can know no more than what old writers pages. have told us." What had others to offer? There were the legendary prehistories of the medieval and postmedieval antiquaries, and there were the philosophical speculations of the Scottish primitivists, possibly as remote from reality as the Golden Ages and Heroic Ages of the Greeks. Admittedly there were antiquaries who were trying to wrest some facts about the past from the material remains they studied, but they were not getting very far; indeed from time to time they confessed that they were in despair. Sir Richard Colt Hoare had set out with high hopes

Writ" * But

We

in his investigations of the Wiltshire barrows but, after ten years' work, was forced to confess "total

"We have evidence," he wrote,

ignorance of the authors of these sepulchral memorials." "of the very high antiq-

uity of our Wiltshire barrows, but none respecting the tribes to whom they appertained, that can rest on solid

foundations." Colt Hoare, thwarted from Continental
travel, as

declared, "by the tyrannous Corsican," had toured Ireland in 1806. In his account of his Tour

he

4 8.

CASSON, The Discovery of

Man

(1939), 166.

26

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

in Ireland published in the following year and I remind you here that we are dealing with one of the foremost
British archaeologists of his time

"I shall not un-

and patience of necesarfly trespass upon the time
readers in endeavouring to ascertain

my

what

tribes first

the conpeopled this country; nor to what nation struction of this singular monument," he is writing of

Grange, "may reasonably be attributed for, I fear, both its authors and its original destination will ever remain unknown. Conjecture may wonder over its wild and spacious domains but will never bring home
it either truth or conviction. Alike will the histories of those stupendous temples at AVEBURY and STONEHENGE which grace my native country, remain involved

New

with

in obscurity
all

despair, and it was felt by those who at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth were trying to get some ancient history out of what

and oblivion." Here was indeed a counsel of
over Europe

they knew were ancient remains. I always like quoting in this connection a remark made by Professor Rasmus

Nyerup, one of the pioneers of Danish prehistoric archaeology. For years Nyerup had been privately collecting antiquities and had formed them into a small

museum
was

at the University of Copenhagen, of

which he

librarian.

them

in

any

classify significant way, confessing that "everything

But he had been

quite unable to

which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time know that it is older than we cannot measure. Christendom but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millennium,

We

we can do no more than
That
is

where prehistory was

guess." at that

moment;

still

at

THE FOG AND THE FLOOD
a time of guesses and conjectures conjecture that

37
will

never bring home truth or conviction, the conjecture which Dr. Johnson found so idle. The archaeologists,
struggling for historical truth, could as yet offer no prehistory nothing but obscurity, oblivion thick fog.
It

was not because they believed in the divine

inspira-

tion of Genesis but because of the inadequacy of any other prehistory that learned men even well into the

nineteenth century turned to the Genesis account of the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood to explain the origin of man and society, and clutched at the firm dates of Ussher and Lightfoot to give them a secure chronology of the past. The Fall and the Flood of the Fundamentalists would stay as articles of belief until the

growth of archaeology and geology gradually penetrated the obscurity and oblivion which so despairingly wrapped in fog the prehistoric beginnings of man. shall be concerned next with the revolution in thought which took place between 1810 and 1859 and sub-

We

stituted stratigraphies! geology and systematic archaeology for the Flood and the Fog of prehistory before

archaeology.

II

The Beginnings of Archaeological
Prehistory

The

twenty-third of October is the anniversary of the creation as accurately dated by Bishop Lightfoot. While we realize that many people did not^ in the seventeenth

and eighteenth centuries, believe in the exact detail of the Ussher-Lightfoot dates, yet the general notion behind them did then condition general thought about man's past. 'Time we may comprehend," wrote Sir Thomas Browne in the Religio Medici, "tis but five days elder than ourselves, and hath the same Horoscope with the world." This was in 1635. Time was understood and was short, and this idea of the shortness of man's past and its interpretation in terms of Biblical exegesis was the prevalent way of thought right up to the early nineteenth century. At the end of the eighteenth century there was prevalent what Professor Wood Jones has called "a most satisfying and spiritually comforting x conception of the universe." The whole universe had
1

Design and Purpose (1942), 41.

38

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY 39 been designed in perfection, and there was the perfect Chain of Being, L'&hette des fares, the Scala Naturae. In 1802 William Paley (1745-1805) wrote his Natural Theology: or Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, a task in which he endeavored, as he says in his preface dedicated to the Bishop of Durham, "to
repair in the study his deficiencies in the Church/' set out to show that man had only inhabited the world

He

for six thousand years, that the world "teemed with delighted existence," but had not done so for more than
six thousand years, and that it like a watch, indeed created maker.2

was

all

by God

a splendid design the arch-watch-

In 1833 the Trustees of the Earl of Bridgewater commissioned authors selected by the President of the Royal
Society in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London to write treatises illustrating and elaborating Paley's Natural Theology or the thesis clearly expounded therein Paley has been described as one of the best writers of textbooks that ever existed. These treatises "designed to prove that the

was literally exact and that Noah's ark and the Flood were facts of prehistory," were written by men like Prout and Whewefl and Dean Buddand and were published in 1833. I ask you particularly to remember those two dates; 1802, when Paley's Natural Theology was first published,
creation story of Genesis

and 1833, the year of the Bridgewater Treatises. Two years before Paley wrote there was published in Volume XIII of Archaeolo&a a short "Account of Flint WeapPaley was accused of having plagiarized his watch idea from Bernard Nieuwentyr (1654-1718), a Dutch disciple of Descartes, but it was a fairly widespread analogy.
2

40

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

ons Discovered at Hoxne in Suffolk" by John Frere. The year in which the Bridgewater Treatises were published

saw also the publication of the third and last volume of Sir Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, the work that really destroyed the Dfluvialist geology of the Catastrophists and which was one of tie two great formative books in the mind of Charles Darwin as he worked out and developed his theory of evolution. Three years after the Bridgewater Treatises, in 1836, there was published in Copenhagen the first guidebook to the National Museum; it was called Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed, and it contained an essay on the early monuments and antiquities of the north, by Christian Jurgensen Thomsen. In this essay he set out
the notion of three prehistoric ages of stone, bronze,

and iron which had been implicit in his classification and arrangement of the National Museum. It was these
three things

what they were and

the recognition of man's early tools for their association with extinct ani-

mals, the acceptance of a fluvialist geology, and the that acceptance of the three ages of man's prehistory,

enabled a systematic prehistoric archaeology to come into existence, for the Fog to disperse, and the Flood to
subside.
It
is

my

concern to discuss these three revolutions

that occurred between Paley's Darwin's Origin of Species in and Natural Theology the half-century between 1802 and 1859, of which the of 1833 rough halfway mark is the Bridgewater Treatises Let us and the Principles of Geology (1830-33). begin with geology because the acceptance of stratigraphy and uniformitarianism was fundamental to progress in geolin

human thought

ogy or archaeology.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY
i.

41

The Development of Geology

It was the last quarter of the eighteenth century which witnessed the birth of geology as a science, and this period saw a great cleavage between those who insisted on interpreting the record of the rocks in conformity with Genesis, and those who believed in

interpreting the record in terms of present-day natural phenomena. If you had to fit in the record of the rocks

to the six thousand years allowed you by the UssherLdghtfoot interpretation of Mosaic chronology, the natural modern normal process of accumulation and

change had to be accelerated. There had to be catastrophes, of which, surely, it was argued, the Flood provided one admirable historical example. Hence the cleavage between the Dfluvialists and Catastrophists on one hand

on the other. Cuvier Georges (1769-1832), the great French geoland naturalist; universally regarded as the "founder ogist
and the
Fluvialists

of vertebrate paleontology/' held that the record of the rocks could be interpreted correctly only by supposing that there had been a series of great catastrophes, not

merely one; and that the .Noachian Flood of Genesis was a record of one of them. He went further and exof fossilized pressly denied the existence such he said that things just could uity;

man

in antiq-

not be. 'The

pope of bones," as Cuvier was

called,

had a

tre-

mendous reputation in the study of fossils "the medals coined by creation," as he called them. His reputation
was enormous as a naturalist, and enhanced by tales like the famous one of his visit from the Devil only it was not the Devil but one of his students dressed like up with horns on his head and shoes shaped

42

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

cloven hooves. This frightening apparition burst into Cuvier's bedroom when he was fast asleep and de-

man of catastrophes. I am to devour I have come you!" Cuvier studied the apparition carefully and critically and said, "I doubt
claimed:

"Wake up

ihou

the Devil.

whether you can.
eat plants."

You have horns and hooves. You

only

catastrophes believed in a series of geological revolutions. He knew of the stratigraphical evidence that was being accumulated by people like

The man of

William Smith in England. William Smith (17691839), "strata Smith/' as he is often called, was described by William Sedgwick in 1831 as the recognized "Father of English Geology." He drew up a table of thirty-two different strata and found different fossils in each of them. He called fossils not medals of creation, but "the antiquities of Nature," and the first part of his Strata Identified by Organized Fossils was published in 1816. Now Cuvier in France did not deny the existence of these layers but said that they were separated by catastrophes which obliterated certain animals and plants and which were followed by new creations. Cuvier died in 1832, at the moment when he was about to be made Minister of the Interior. His and d'Orbigny carried disciples and pupils Brongniaert on his work and drew up a dogmatic system of twentyseven successive acts of creation and catastrophes. In England, the Reverend W. D. Conybeare (1787Dean of Llandaff, postu1857), a geologist who became lated three deluges before that of Noah. Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), who was Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge in 1818, was also in favor of the Flood, and so was William Buddand (1784Buddand was a very strange character and
1856).

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY
anecdotes about

43

him abound how he

ate the heart

of a French king in Sutton Courtenay Church, kept an orangutan in his rooms at Christ Church, and pie-

pared for Ruskin's breakfast an exquisite toast of mice. He seems to have been a veiy great field geologist; the tale I most like about him is that, lost on a journey on horseback from Oxford to London, he dismounted, bent

down, picked up a handful of soil, and said at once, "Ah, yes, as I guessed, Baling." Buckland was appointed Reader in Mineralogy at Oxford in 1813; it has been
said that his courses attracted in a high degree the

and admiration of the University, and very contributed to the public recognition of geology largely as a science by the endowment in 1819 of a Professorattention

But by this time Buckland had gone away from Oxford to be Dean of Westminster. In 1823 he pubship.

lished his Reliquiae Diluvianae: or Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves, Fissures, and

and in Other Geological Phenomena the Action Attesting of an Universal Deluge, and, thirteen years later, his Geology and Mineralogy Considered
Diluvial Gravel
sisted

in Relation to Natural Theology. That is what he inon a Universal Deluge, and then held that

geology proved it His 1836 book was a summary of geological knowledge as a proof of "the power, wisdom,

and goodness of God as manifested

in creation."

But, very gradually, a powerful opposition was growing to the Catastrophists and Flood-men. In 1785 James

Hutton (1726-97) published his Theory of the Earth: or an Investigation of the Laws Observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land Upon
the Globe.
clay,

He saw in the deposits of sand, and limestone the results of the ordinary
cpf^imAnfc
fricrpfTMar tx/ifTi

gravel,

deposi-

tirm

f\f

Arorarnp TiTnaiTic

rmA&r

44
water,
i.e.,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
in the rivers or in the seas in the

same way

as this deposition

went on

at present.

He

fully recog-

nized that the greater part of the solid land had once been beneath the sea, but formed in an ordinary, that
to say, a noncatastrophic, way. "No processes are to be employed," he said, "that are not natural to the
is

be admitted except those of which we know the principle." This was the real beginning of the doctrine of uniformitarianism. William Smith had
globe;

no

action to

not only assigned

relative ages to the rocks

by noting

their fossil contents,

but himself argued for the orderly
really

deposition of strata over a long period of time.

weighed the scales in this the case for the Fluvialists issue, who really proved against the catastrophic Dfluvialists, was Charles Lyell,

But the

man who

whose Principles of Geology was published,

as

we have

already mentioned, during 1830-33, in three volumes. I quote here the title of his great work, because it is,
in
itself,

a definition of the doctrine of unifonnitari-

full title was: Principles of Geology, Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes Now in Action. Conybeare, himself a Catastrophist and a Dfluvialist; claimed that this work was "in itself sufficiently important to mark almost a new era in the progress of our science." Like Darwin's Origin of Species, a work which Lydl's book profoundly affected, it was not that the

anism.

The

ideas were

new;

it is

that they were set out cogently,

clearly, convincingly.

course there was considerable criticism when the volume was published; many leading geologists were against the notion that present conditions were all that one could allow in the past They may not have wanted catastrophes and floods, but they did think

Of

first

45 and it is arguable that processes might have been more quick in the past than at present Conybeare said, and was supported by Sedgwick, that these causes "may have been modified as to the degrees and intensity of their action by the varying conditions under which
they may have operated at different periods." Sir Joseph Prestwich said in 1886 that there was evidence "that
the physical forces were more active and energetic in himself acgeological periods than at present" Lyell

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY

volume cepted this point of view gradually; in his third "the that in 1833 he said that he had never advocated
change have operated with absolute it did uniformity from all eternity," although sometimes did he that is true It look as if he had done this. change
existing causes of

the

of his great work; the title of the eleventh edition of 1872 was Principles of Geology or the Modern of the Earth and Its Inhabitants Considered as
title

Changes

Illustrative of

Geology.
in title

But the change

was

really only a

demonstra-

tion of a change by the extreme had beunifonnitarianism uniformitarians. Gradually official of come the way geological thinking. Eventually
in emphasis

and

bias

even Buckland and Sedgwick had to abandon their Dfluvialist and Catastrophist views. Buckland's former

John Kidd, gave one of the Bridgewater Treawas on The Adaption of External Nature to the in 1833, Physical Condition of Man, and was published the same year as the third volume of Lyefl's Principles. It is worth quoting extensively from what John Kidd
teacher,
tises; it

said.

Time was

also [he wrote],

and indeed with the

last

century, when the shells and other organic remains which are embedded in the chalk and other solid strata, were considered to be the remains and proofs of the Mosaic

46

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
and yet

at the present day, without deluge; any fear of injuring the credibility of the Scriptures, they are admitted very generally to have been deposited anteriorly to the Mosaic deluge. And who will venture to say, in the infancy of a science like geology, that the same

change of opinion may not happen with respect to the organic remains of the grave beds and caverns. ... By far the greater number of the organic remains of the
gravel, as of

the caverns, belong to species not

known

now

to exist.

That was the crux of the matter; the moment you accepted the doctrine of uniformitarianism, in however liberal a form, you immediately drew attention to the
4004 B.C. there existed animal in remains the gravels and caverns/' as "organic Kidd had said, choosing his words carefully, "not known now to exist" That is the real relevance of all this to our present story; it is not merely that uniformitarianism
life

fact that long before

revolutionized scientific thought; or that stratigraphy

produced an interpretation of the earth's surface which is fundamental to all archaeology; it is that already human fossils were being found in association with organic remains belonging to species not known to exist at the present. The Flood was disappearing, and the Fog was being dissipated, because here at last was proof of the antiquity of man.
2.

The Discovery of Early Man

I have just said that human fossils were found in association with the remains of extinct animals. These
fossils

were of two kinds

physical fossils, that

is

to

say, the actual remains of early men, and cultural fossils, that is to say, the remains of tools made and fashioned

by man. By

definition

man

is

the tool-using and tool-

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY
making animal who walks
erect,

47

and by definition no animal is human who has no artifacts. Apes can join together two sticks so that they can get at a banana out of their unaided reach, but apes do not make tools.

When,
if

therefore,

we

find fashioned implements

we

are,

fay definition, in

we

the presence of men, just as much as had found a skeleton which could be classified as

human.

Now what we know these days to be humanly fashioned tools of stone had been found centuries before
the publication of the Principles of Geology, but for long they had been explained away as thunderbolts, fairy arrows, elfshot. Ulisses Aldrovandi in the midseventeenth century described stone tools as "due to an

admixture of a certain exhalation of thunder and
lightning with metallic matter, chiefly in dark clouds,
is coagulated by the circumfused moisture and conglutinated into a mass (like flour with water) and subsequently indurated by heat, like a brick," and these

which

rather surprising words were written by a man who has been described as the greatest zoologist of the Renaissance period. Tollius, at about the same time, claimed chipped flints to be "generated in the sky by a fulgurous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circumposed humour/'

Others, however, had already more intelligent views of the nature of stone tools. Mercati, as early as the

end of the sixteenth century, had agreed that the socalled thunderbolts were the weapons of a primitive folk ignorant of a knowledge of metallurgy. Sir William Dugdale in his History of Warwickshire published in 1650 declared that these stone objects were "weapons used by the Britons before the art of making arms of brass or iron was known/' Dr, Robert Plot, who was

48
die
first

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, said in his History of Staffordshire (1686) that he agreed with

Dugdale, and later, de la Payrere was giving it as his view that the so-called thunderbolts were really the
tools of some early and pre-Adamitic race. The year before the publication of Plot's History of Staffordshire a megalithic tomb was discovered and excavated at

Cocherel near Dreux in the valley of the Eure. It was the first megalithic tomb ever to be excavated with any semblance of care in Western Europe; it belonged to what we should now call the Paris Basin type of
lished in 1719

Gallery Grave. Accounts of this excavation were puband 1722; what concerns us here is the

use and interpretation which these early eighteenthcentury scholars made of the polished axes from this tomb. The Abb6 of Cocherel had no doubt that the
stones were in fact stone tools:

he thought they were implements like those used by the American Indians in the early eighteenth century. And Dom Bernard de

Montfaucon in his L'Antiquitt expliqute et repr&sentie en figures (it was published in English translation in 1722) decided that the unburned bodies in the

tomb belonged to "some barbarous Nation, that knew not yet tie Use either of Iron or of any metal." Incidentally there is here a very clear and early idea of the existence of a stone age in the early past of man. shall mention this realization again later on; at

We
the
the

moment it is the polished stone objects found with unbumed skeletons that concern us.
tools

But the acceptance of the view that stone

were

in fact the artifacts of early man took a very long time to be achieved. In 1766 Charles Lyttelton, Bishop of
Carlisle, read to

the Society of Antiquaries of
it
is

London a

paper on stone hatchets

published in Archae-

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY
ologia for 1773. In this Lyttelton declared:

49
is

'There

not doubt of these stone instruments having been fabricated in the earliest times and by barbarous people, before the use of iron or other metals was known." He compared them with examples from France and Mexico, and decided they were Ancient British: "the most ancient remains existing at this day of our British ancestors," he said, "and probably coeval with the first inhabitants of this island." That was a fine phrase: "coeval with the first inhabitants." It begged one big question: how early were
the least
the
first

inhabitants?

The problem came

to the fore-

these stone objects, now accepted as cultural fossils of man, were found with organic remains belonging to species not known now to exist. The first
front

when

we know about was made at the end of the seventeenth centuiy in London; it was made in Gray's Inn Lane by a London apothecary and antique dealer called Conyers. In ancient deposits he found a stone axe and with it bones, which, after much thought, he decided were those of an elephant but which in fact may very well have been those of a mammoth. Conyers declared that the Ancient Britons of those days had not then known the use of metal and had to use stone tools. His views were laughed at and when his friend John Bagfbrd described this Gray's Inn Lane find in 1715, while he accepted the association of elephant and stone tool, he thought that it was a
find of this kind that

Roman

elephant

a Claudian import

At the end of the eighteenth centuiy another man faced the same problem and resolutely refused to explain away what he had found. This man was John Frere and he had sent his views to the Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries in 1797 as I have already men-

JO

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

tioned; these were really overlooked for sixty years until discoveries in the Somme gravels and in South Devon

proved beyond

all

doubt the coeval existence of

man

and

extinct animals.

On

June

22, 1797,

John Frere

wrote to the Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries enclosing some flint implements found at Hoxne, near
Diss, in Suffolk; his letter is printed in Archaeologfa for 1800 and it is, as Dr. Joan Evans says in her History

of the Society of Antiquaries, "a landmark in the development of prehistory."

This

is

what John Frere

said of his flint

implements:

"If not particularly objects of curiosity in themselves . . . must, I think, be considered in that light, from the
lian

which they were found/' They were Acheuaxes, as we would now call them, and they found twelve feet below the surface of the ground were in the bottom layer of some undisturbed strata; and here they were associated with the bones of extinct
situation in

hand

animals. Frere described them, very properly:
are, I think,"

"They he wrote, "evidently weapons of war, fabricated and used by a people who had not the use of metals/' and, he adds, "the situation in which these weapons were found may tempt us to refer them to a
that of the very remote period indeed, even beyond world." (Plate I.) present

The

Society of Antiquaries recorded that "thanks

were returned to our worthy member Mr. Frere for this curious and most interesting communication," but it was soon foigotten. It is true that at the beginning of the nineteenth century archaeologists were getting
used to the idea that there were such things as stone and they were feeling their way towards the idea of a Stone Age in the past of man. But that was not the
tools
historical

importance of John Frere and his communi-

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY

$1

cation to the Antiquaries. His importance was that he realized the significance not only of the tools qua tools

but of their situation in undisturbed

strata

and together
.

. from with extinct animals. "Objects of curiosity . a situation the situation in which they were found ... [which] . . . may tempt us to refer them to a very

remote period indeed, even beyond that of the present
world."

That remote period "beyond that of the present worfd" was, despite the fact that John Frere's modest yet most percipient remarks were forgotten, coming nearer to recognition as a fact: one of the first facts in a prehistory based on archaeology. In 1828, Tournal, the curator of the Narbonne Museum, published discoveries he had made in the Grotte de Bize near Narbonne, where he had found human bones associated
with extinct animals. Actually this was not the first such association to be described. In 1771 Johann Friedrich Esper, a priest, was digging a cave at Gaylenreuth near Bamberg in the German Jura and he found cave
bear and other extinct animals associated with human bones. He published his finds in 1774 and asked himself

human bones: "Did they or to a Mortal an Antediluvian to or a Druid to belong Man of more recent times?" and concluded: "I dare without any sufficient reason these human not
this question regarding the

presume
to

be of the same age as the other animal must have got there by chance topetrifactions. They

members

gether with them." That was it Must have got there by chance; there was no sufficient reason to think otherwise. Yet the to accumulate in the second quarter of reasons

began

the nineteenth century. It was not only Touraal at the Grotte de Bize but other French geologists like Chris-

52
tol,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY Dumas, and Pitre. And spurred on by these
he found seven human

south-

ern French discoveries, Schmerling worked in the caves at Engihoul near Lige, the most famous of which was
Engis. Here
skulls,

many

arti-

facts, some of them associated with the skeletons of rhinoceros and mammoth. "There can be no doubt,"

wrote Schmerling, "that the human bones were buried at the same time and by the same cause as the other extinct species." Nobody believed Schmerling; indeed

few bothered to notice his work at the time. The same fate befell the work of a Roman Catholic was excavating in priest, Father J. MacEnery, who from at Kent's Cavern 1824 to 1829. Here, in Torquay of extinct aniremains the found he famous this cave, under the stratiflint mals associated with implements fied unbroken floor of stalagmite of the cavern. He communicated his find to Dean Buddand and other
for publigeologists while preparing his discoveries cation. Dean Buckland insisted that MacEnery was

wrong.

He said that the Ancient Britons, whose artifacts

MacEnery had found

in Kent's Cavern, had scooped ovens in the stalagmite and that their implements had penetrated the layer of stalagmite only through these holes. In vain did MacEnery protest that there were

no such

no such ovens had been scooped to the views of Buckland, of out deference out; yet
holes, that

MacEnery abandoned

his idea of publishing his dis-

coveries at Kent's Cavern.

At the very time when MacEnery was working in Kent's Cavern, Dean Buckland himself was having trouble in interpreting the finds in the Goat's Hole
Cave at Pavfland on the Cower coast of Glamorgan. Here he had found the skeleton of a young man the
so-called

Red Lady

of Pavfland

associated with Paleo-

lithic

53 implements. There was no real doubt of the association, but Buckland could not bring himself to accept itthe skeleton, he said, "was clearly not
flint

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY

coeval with the antediluvian bones of the extinct species," and he dated it to the Romano-British period.

Admittedly Buckland was fighting for the Catastroand it was not until the battle between the old and the new geology was over that the evidence of the
phists,

antiquity of

man was

accepted.

The

third

volume of

LyelTs Principles of Geology was published in 1833; four years later a customs official of Abbeville, by name Jacques Boucher de Crvecoeur de Perthes, began collecting flints from the Somme gravels. They were of the kind which nowadays we he called them haches diluviennes. In 1838 he showed some of them at Abbeville, and in the next year in Paris; and in that year he published the first of five volumes of his book called De la Creation; essai sur forigfne de la progression des etres. His critics laughed at him, but he went on, undaunted, and in 1847 published the first volume of a three-volume work

roughly chipped

flints

call Abbevfllian:

AntiquiUs Celtiques et Ant4diluviennes. The should be noted; his axes were no longer diluviennes, they were ant&dihmsnnes. He found he could no longer explain the association of human artifacts and extinct animals in the Somme gravels by the Diluentitled
title

vial theory.

Very slowly the French came round to de Perthes's point of view. In 1858 an Englishman, Falconer, visited Abbeville, saw the chipped flints, and thought that Boucher de Perthes's claims were right. He returned to England and told his opinion to Joseph Prestwich and John Evans, urging them to visit the Somme gravels and
see for themselves. This they did in the following year.

54

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

Meanwhile a new enthusiast had been excavating at Kent's Cavern, Torquay. He was William Pengelly, a local schoolmaster and a private coach, who was fascinated by geology. He found that his work was demonstrating what MacEnery had demonstrated years before but no one had believed, namely that man was contemporary in south Devon with extinct animals. But it was not until a neighboring cave, the Windmill HOI Cave at Brixham, was excavated that the scientific world was prepared to accept this remarkable south

Devon

evidence.

From
dug

the

of 1859 Pengelly

in the

summer of 1858 to that Brixham cave; he found

flint tools associated

with extinct animals in the cave

earth "on which lay a sheet of stalagmite from three to eight inches thick, and having within and on it relics

of lion, hyaena, bear,
deer."

mammoth,

rhinoceros

and

rein-

These were careful excavations conducted by William Pengelly on behalf of a committee of the British Association; it was not possible any more to
talk about ovens scooped in the stalagmite by ancient Britons. The "sufficient reasons" demanded by Esper

were here.

When John Evans crossed over to Abbeville to Boucher de Perthes he wrote in his diary:
ville

visit

Think of their finding flint axes and arrowheads at Abbein conjunction with bones of Elephants and Rhinoceroses 40 ft. bdow the surface in a bed of drift. In this bone cave in Devonshire . they have found arrowheads among the bones and the same is reported
.

of a cave in Sidly. I can hardly believe it. It will make my ancient Britons quite modern if man is carried back in England to the days when Elephants, Rhinoceroses,

Hippopotamuses and Tigers were

also inhabitants of the

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY 55 In a very short while John Evans discovered that what he could hardly believe had, however hardly, to be
believed. This
is

what he

said at Abbeville:

The

flat axes
.

and implements found among the beds of

gravel

them

evidently deposited at the same time with in fact the remains of a race of men who existed
.
.

at the time

when the dduge

or whatever was the origin

of these gravels took place.

the

Prestwich and John Evans returned to England from Somme: on May 26, 1859, Prestwich read a paper to
flints;

the Royal Society, and after it Evans spofce of the

on June 2 John Evans spoke to the Society of Antiquaries and said: 'This much appears to be established beyond
doubt; that in a period of antiquity remote beyond any of which we have hitherto found traces, this portion of the globe was peopled by man." Later that year, the

annus

mirdbilis as it has

been

called, Sir Charles

Lydl

as president of the Geological Section of the British Association meeting at Aberdeen said that he was

now

"fully prepared to corroborate the conclusions . . . recently laid before the Royal Society by Mr. Prest-

wich."

The

antiquity

the great antiquity

of

man was

at

last accepted;

the Flood had gone, the Fog was being and prehistory, as the first stage of man's penetrated; was emerging at last Indeed two years before history,
these solemn pronouncements in London and Aberdeen, prehistoric man had himself emerged. In 1857 the

long bones and skull cap of a manlike being was discovered at Neanderthal in Prussia. Schaafhausen, who first described these remains, said that the Neanderthal
skeleton belonged to a "barbarous and savage race" and regarded it "as the most ancient memorial of the eaily

56

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

inhabitants of Europe/' Others disagreed, saying that the Neanderthal skeleton was that of a pathological
idiot.

did not really matter if as yet the anaof prehistoric man was accepted; the cultural fossils had been. By 1859 Pengelly in Devonit

But

tomical

fossils

shire

and Boucher de Perthes in the

Somme had proved

the antiquity of
this

man

if

tarian principles of Lyell,

you accepted the uniformiand most people were doing

by the

sixties.

Dean Buckland's

vigorous refusal to accept the evi-

dence from Kent's Cavern and Pavfland was, by the sixties, as outmoded as the Deluge itself, which he had defended for so long. Another flood had swept away the Noachian Catastrophists, the flood of evidence which, from the south of France to the Somme, from Lige to Britain, had demonstrated that man was indeed antediluvian and that the six thousand years from

4004

B.C. to

history as it

the present day could not contain his prewas slowly being revealed in the archae-

ological record.
3.

TheThreeAgesofMan
While

geologists were disputing the antiquity of man in the gravels of Western Europe, historians and museum curators in Northern Europe were postulating
stages in the prehistory of man which at long last penetrated the despairing fog of which men like Rasmus

Nyerup and Richard Colt Hoare had complained. I have already quoted the words of Professor Nyerup: "Everything that has come down to us from heathenwrapped in a thick fog: it belongs to a space of know that it is time which we cannot measure. older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of
is

dom

We

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY
years or a couple of centuries, or even

57 by more than a
guess."

millennium,

we can do no more than

some while before he wrote those dein 1806 there had been hints of how spairing words archaeologists could do more than guess at classifying the material remains of the past. More and more people
Actually, for

were beginning to recognize the existence of stone tools and to see them as relics of a time when men did not know of tie use of metal. They argued on two grounds;
that people would surely not be so stupid as to use only stone tools, if they possessed more efficient tools of bronze and iron. Secondly they argued from the existence of contemporary savage communities in
first,

North America and the
age.

Pacific

who were

in

a stone

In 1807, the year after he had published a book advocating the formation of a National Danish Mu-

seum of

Antiquities, Professor

Nyerup was made

Secre-

the Preservation tary of a Royal Committee set up "for and Collection of National Antiquities." The Com-

mittee was charged to form a national Museum of Anwas succeeded as Secretary by tiquities. In 1816 Nyerup Christian Jurgensen Thomsen, who was also made the
curator of the National Museum. Thomsen's first was to arrange the growing collections in some sort of order; this he did by classifying them into three ages of stone, bronze, and iron. His classification was clearly set out in the guidebook to the National Museum the Ledetraad til NoTdisk Oldkyndighed published in Copenhagen in 1836 and translated into English in 1848. Thomsen's idea of three technological ages or stages in man's material cultural past was soon being used in Sweden, and in Germany, where indeed it may
first

task

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 58 have been independently invented.3 It was really a very simple idea, when we look back at it now; merely that before he learned the use of metals man had lived in a stone age, and that even when he had learned the use of metals, he first used copper or bronze, and only later learned to deal with iron ores. A simple idea, yes; but one which immediately gave some chronological depth to man's past. And it was not merely an idea, or a system for museum classification. Soon excavations in the Danish bogs and the Swiss lake-dwellings afforded stratigraphical proof of the succession of the three ages. As the idea and its stratigraphical demonstration passed to Western
Europe archaeologists began to see that the artifacts which characterized Thomsen's Stone Age were different from those found in the Somme gravels, and the Devon caves, and they began to think in terms of two Stone Ages an earlier Stone Age of chipped stones, and a later Stone Age of polished stone. It was an Englishman, Sir John Lubbock, who coined the words Paleolithic and Neolithic for these two successive ages; this was in his Prehistoric Times, published in 1865. Three years later, in the tenth edition of his Principles
of Geology, Sir Charles Lyell is using these phrases. Early man was now thought of as living through four
historical

or perhaps rather prehistorical stages: the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Early Iron Ages. Of course there was opposition to the acceptance of

these ideas. John Kemble, in 1857, said that the Three Age system would 'iDetray us into grave historical errors"

and lead us "into an
8

historical reductio

ad abswdum"

On this see G. E. DJOTEL, The Three Ages (1943) and A Hundred Years of Archaeology (1950); and H. J. EGGERS, Einfuhrung in die Vorgeschichte (1959).

Even

the Iron period "of the Northern Antiquaries," and to "the order corresponding to that of the supposed introduction of such materials into this country/' Thomas Wright, the Secretary of the Ethnological Society, was strongly opposed to the Three Age idea. All bronzes were Roman, he declared: and, as for the Stone Age, "there may have been a period when society was in so barbarous a state that sticks or stones were the only implements with which men knew how to -furnish themselves," but he doubted, he said, "if the antiquary has yet found any evidence of such a period."

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PREHISTORY 59 Guide to the Exhibition Rooms of British Museum refers to the Stone,, Bronze, and
in 1866 the

But, gradually, this opposition disappeared. By the late sixties prehistory was actually in existence; the word itsdf, first in Daniel Wilson's Prehistoric Annals

e *^ea of of Scotland, soon became current By 1865 a prehistory of man was so far advanced that Sir John

^

Lubbock could produce a popular book called PreTimes, which became a best-seller. The Fog and the Flood had at last gone: and in their place was stratigraphical geology, the antiquity of man, and the belief in the three ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron. An archaeological idea of prehistory had
historic

come

into existence.

Ill

The

Victorians and Prehistory

John Lubbock's Prehistoric Times went on being a a century: the seventh edition was in published 1913, a few months after the death of Lord Avebury (as Sir John Lubbock then was), and when I went up to Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1932, mint copies of the seventh edition were for sale on the shelves of Heffer's and Bowes & Bowes.
Sir
best-seller for half

Let us

now

analyze the sort of idea of prehistory

which was being put out between the first and last editions of Prehistoric Times between 1865 and 1913: in a word, to answer the question: what was the Victorian idea of prehistory? Well, in the first place,
it was a notion based on the man, and was firmly based on the

great antiquity of

acceptance of a very long past for man that could not be cabined and confined within the chronologies set

out in

tiie

Bible. I realize that Lubbock's Prehistoric

Times was published when Queen Victoria had been
60

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY

6l

on the throne for nearly half of her long reign of sixtyfour years, and that perhaps this lecture should be entitled "The Later Victorians and Prehistory" rather than "The Victorians and Prehistory/' From the thirties
to the sixties of the nineteenth century the acceptance of the great antiquity of man, as we have seen, was slow. The striking and oft-quoted phrase "a rose-red city, half as old as time"

which John William Burgon wrote

in 1845, was not, as I thought as a schoolboy, a flight of poetic fancy. To Burgon and to many early Victorians time -was only six thousand years old, and he literally meant Petra to be half that time in age. Then

never forget that the Mosaic chronology was accepted by many because they sincerely thought that Moses was separated by only a few generations of oral
tradition

we must

from

Adam and

the creation of

man and

the

world. George Rawlinson, in the Bampton Lecture for 1859 that famous year said in all seriousness that

who

Moses's mother, Jochebed, had probably met Jacob, could have known Noah's son Shem. Shem, he
is

no doubting his sincerity, was with Methuselah, who had been probably acquainted for 243 years a contemporary of Adam. And Adam was the first man, made on the sixth day after that great day when time began.
Very gradually the early Victorian fundamentalist chronology was replaced by the belief in a remote past for man. On this very issue the first words of Lubbock's Prehistoric Times were bold, arresting, dear. 'The first appearance of man in Europe/' he said "dates from a
period so remote that neither history nor tradition can throw any light on his origin or mode of life." This

went on, and there

was only six years tions about Moses.

after

George Rawlinson's specula-

62

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

James Cowles Prichard (1786-1848) was one of our

He spent the greater in of his as a Bristol. His two great life part physician works are Researches into the Physical History of Man,
earliest British anthropologists.

which appeared between 1836 and 1847, and The Natural History of Man, which came out in 1843. ^n e

&

Researches he says very dearly:

"Many

writers

who

have been by no means inclined to raise objections against the authority of the Sacred Scriptures . have
. .

themselves embarrassed by the shortness of the interval between the Noachic Deluge and the period at which the records of various nations commence, or the
felt

earliest

date to which their historical memorials lead

us back/' There really was not enough time, Prichard argued, on the short Ussher chronology, for the historical events of the world and for the development of the
diversity of
diversity of

the

human

races.

Others argued that the

language demanded a long human past All these arguments the archaeological, the argument from physical anthropology, and the argument from
language demanded a long past for man. Gradually, in the face of these arguments, the Victorians abandoned the struggle in defense of 4004 B.C.

There remained the problem: how old was man? If time was really longer than six thousand years, if the world had a new horoscope, what was man's position in this? Morlot in Switzerland, calculating from the thickness of deposits near Geneva, decided that the Stone Age began seven thousand years ago. Gflli&on got to

much

looked as

the same figures elsewhere in Switzerland. It and by this if the Stone Age in Switzerland Morlot and Gflli&on meant the Neolithic was at
seven thousand years old. Arguments from the thickness and rate of formation of deposits are no-

least six to

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY
toriously difficult culations were

63 same time as the Swiss calbeing made a Mr. Horner in Egypt
at die
there
thirteen

calculated

that the Neolithic began

but they were of some help. If the Neolithic was so old, what was the age of the Paleolithic, which lay back of the Neolithic, stretching

thousand years ago

away to the beginning of prepared to say that the

man?

Sir Charles Lyell

was

Somme

deposits with their

flint implements, mammoth, and hyena were not less ancient than 100,000 years ago; and that the Quaternaiy Ice Age took 220,000 years. Sir Joseph Prestwich,

on the other hand, wanted only 20,000
Paleolithic, while Gabriel

years for the

de Mortfllet estimated the

beginning of the Old Stone Age as 230,000 to 240,000 years. It all was, as Prestwich said, "a curious and interesting problem," but not one about which the Victorian geologists and archaeologists could do more than guess. Geochronology was a product of twentieth-cen-

and Carbon-i4 dating is only a matAH that was certain in the late Victorian idea of prehistoiy was that man was old and that his prehistoric beginnings went back before the Noachian deluge and before 4004 B.C. The second certainty in the Victorian outlook was that prehistory was no longer a matter of guesswork. It was a matter of scientific deduction; a new discipline which could provide clear and certain answers had arrived. "Of late years/' declared Lubbock proudly on
tury archaeology
ter of the last decade,

page of Prehistoric Times, "a new branch of knowledge has arisen, a new Science has ... been born among us, which deals with times and events far more ancient than any which have yet fallen within the
the
first

province of the archaeologist . . . Archaeology forms the link between geology and history."

64

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

Others did not share Lubbock's assurance that they had at last discovered the key to the prehistoric past;
they felt with Palgrave that

"We

must give

it

up, the

speechless past; whether fact or chronology, doctrine or mythology; whether in Europe, Asia, Africa or America; at Thebes or Palenque, on Lycian shore or Salis-

bury Plain; lost is lost; gone is gone for ever." A more hopeful view was being taken by those who found themselves living through a period of great discoveries in prehistoric archaeology. It was only three in 1868, years after the publication of Prehistoric Times, that Heinrich Schliemann began excavating in Ithaca,

and three years

later, at Hissarlik,

that

he achieved that

ambition which had fired him through all his life as a businessman in Russia and America, an ambition first
kindled
tory.

when he saw

a picture in Jarrer^s Universal His-

In 1871 he found Troy; and Homer was attested archaeologically. Even if the splendid gold objects from
II,

which Schliemann's beautiful young Greek wife Sophie smuggled through the Turkish customs
Troy
beneath her voluminous skirts, are not now thought to be, as Schliemann claimed, the Treasure of Priam, to the world of the seventies of the last century he had, by alive in the digging in the ground, made Homer come later at Mycenae. He and Troad of the hillside dusty had created a fresh chapter in the human past, had himself written prehistory, and demonstrated with
it up, that the speechless past could speak, that lost is not lost, that gone is not gone forever. (Plate II.) This of course, as we now see it, is one of the excite-

overwhelming effectiveness that we must not give

ments of archaeological prehistory, that the past which seemed forever gone can be brought back by the skilled use of archaeological reconnaissance, excavation, and

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY
interpretation.

We

65

are

now accustomed

to learn of

being recovered from the speechless are two that come imare even accustomed by now to mediately to mind. recover fie faces of the past: the dead in the Scythian barrows at Pazyrik and in the Danish peat-bog at Tollund (Plate VI) live again after hundreds of years. But
civilizations

whole
past

the

Minoan and Harappan

We

these enormous possibilities had to be learned, and the apprehension by the scholars and public of the seventies that Troy and Mycenae could be made to live again by the spade is one of the great moments of the development of an idea of prehistory. In 1875 Schliemann came to London and read a

paper to the Society of Antiquaries of London on his remarkable discoveries. The discussion was opened by W. E. Gladstone, who had just ended his first term as

Prime Minister and who had himself published, in 1858, a book entitled Studies on Homer and ihe Homeric Age. In this book there was no mention of prehistoric archaeology or

indeed of any possibility that

anything other than literary criticism could illuminate the problem of Homer. Yet by the time, less than

twenty years later, when he is speaking to the Society of Antiquaries, the existence and relevance of prehis-

who

tory were very much in his mind. are among the elders in this

'When many

of us

room were growing

up/' said Mr. Gladstone,
the whole of the prehistoric times lay before our eyes a silver cloud covering the whole of the lands that, at different periods of history, had become so illustrious
like

and interesting; but as to their details we knew nothing. Here and there was a shadowy, an isolated glimmer of light let in. ... Now we are beginning to see through this dense mist and the cloud is becoming transparent,

66
and the

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
figures of real places, real

men,

real facts are

slowly beginning to reveal to us their outlines.

Now what were these

real places, real

men,

real facts

which, Mr. Gladstone claimed, were at last appearing by the end of the third quarter of the nineteenth century?

They
facts

were, very briefly, of three kinds;

first,

they

about the early days of the great known historical civilizations the early days of Greece and Rome, of Mesopotamia and of Egypt. Secondly they were facts about cultures and civilizations which were
were
hitherto

unknown

the Hittites for example and the

early civilizations of America. In the third place they were facts about the development of man's culture be-

fore the historic civilizations or in areas alongside the
historic civilizations.

The framework for the prehistoric culture sequence had been provided by the Danish Three Age system of Thomsen as modified by Lubbock into the Four Ages of the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages. But, gradually, even this framework was too broad and general, and a division of the four stages began to be made. The Paleolithic was divided into varying stages with names like Chellean, Acheulian, Mousterian, Solutrean, Magdalenian. In Sweden Oscar Montelius divided the Neolithic into four numbered periods and the Bronze Age into five such. The Iron Age was divided in a variety of ways of which Hallstatt and La Tfene were the two best-known divisions, and these
were soon widely adopted.

As these

divisions

and subdivisions were being made,

do they mean? people began to ask: what precisely Were they universal, that is to say were they stages of human culture through which everyone passed? Was

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY

67

there a single uniform prehistory of man from the Chellean to La Tfene and if so, how did this prehistorical
logical evolution,

development come about? Just as there had been biowas there also a natural cultural evo-

lution leading through various stages up to civilization? It was surely not unnatural in an age which had,

with some difficulty, accepted the idea of evolution in the biological world for many to think that cultural
evolution succeeded to biological evolution and that when man appeared on the scene, when an animal
arrived which made tools extracorporeal limbs as they have been called the process of evolution continued. The doctrines of social evolution which Herbert Spencer and others were setting out and which were discussed by the late Professor Gordon Chflde when he

gave the Josiah

Mason

lectures here in

Birmingham

three years ago,1 seemed to provide a clear interpretation of the prehistoric record which the archaeologists

were studying. In 1867 the great international exhibition was held in Paris; for tie first time ever in such an international exhibition there were displayed prehistoric collections, mainly in the Galerie de 1'Histoire du Travail. These were collections of material from all over Europe and from Egypt As Gabriel de Mortfllet said of these collections, it was the first time that prehistory was able to show itself "<?une man&re solenneUe et gnrale. Eh bien, cette premiere manifestation a && pour eux

un triomphe complet"
There was, by the way, no prehistory in the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. In response to repeated requests Gabriel de Mortfllet wrote a guide to
the prehistoric collections at the Paris Exposition of 1 V. GORDON CHILDE, Social Evolution (1951).

68
1867. It

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

was called Promenades pT&historiques <i FExposition Universelle. At the end of this guide he summarized what he thought were the lessons that had so far emerged from the discipline of prehistoric scholarship.

He

printed

them

in capital letters as the last

words in his book and they were LOI DU PROGR^S DE L'HUMANIli, LOI DU D&VELOPPEMENT SIMELAIRE, and the third: HAUTE AOTiQurrf: DE I/HOMME. About the third of these conclusions there was no
doubt.

The

late Victorians believed in the antiquity of

although they could not agree on an absolute chronology. But there was not really agreement about the other two laws, which had as their keynotes the
ideas

man

of

Parallel

Cultural

Evolution

and

Progress.

There were many who agreed with de Mortfllet when he declared, passionately, after conducting his tour of
sible

the collections in the Paris Exposition: "It is imposany longer to doubt the great law of the progress

of man." These were indeed the sort of words which

an archaeologist might have been repeating from Herbert Spencer, who in 1850 had been saying, "Progress is not an accident but a necessity. It is a fact of nature/'
It began to look to some as if prehistoric archaeology was confirming the philosophical and sociological spec-

ulations of the mid-nineteenth-centuiy scholars. Gabriel de Mortfllet, however much his views were influenced

by the current beliefs in progress and evolution, was in fact making an observation from the archaeological
which many Victorians had of it, was a record of progress and evolution. This was certainly to many the interpretation of the real facts and the real places which Mr. Gladstone had seen
record. Prehistory, in the idea

appearing in his lifetime.

Mr, Gladstone had spoken

to the Society of Anti-

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY

69

quaries in 1875. This was the year in which the Germans began digging at Qlympia, a fact which many,

and not unreasonably, regard as the beginning of modern scientific techniques in archaeology. This was also tie year in which Marcelino de Sautuola began digging
in the cave of Altamira in the Cantabrian

Mountains

of Spain. Five years later Flinders Petrie began excavating in Egypt and the modem period of Near-Eastern

excavation commenced. In that same year the daughter of Marcelino de Sautuola walked into the dark inner
recesses of the Altamira cave and, lifting her lamp,

saw

frightening paintings
father,

on the

roof and ran out to her

who was

Toros"

Come and
now

accident, the

excavating outside^ crying "Torosf see the bulls. She had found, by famous polychromes on the roof at

Altamira and the real fact of Upper Paleolithic art was with us not, admittedly, accepted as such by the
archaeological world for a quarter of a century,

and

not^ perhaps, really a part of the historical perspective of most people until the years following the sensational

discovery of Lascaux in 1940 with its widespread popularization in archaeological and general circles.

As people began to study the naturalistic drawings and paintings of Upper Paleolithic times that were being discovered in the last third of the nineteenth century, and, as they also began to study the prehistoric record in different countries, they became less and less
certain that there

was a

universal

common

prehistory

of man, and that all was evolutionary progress to a common goal of Victorian complacency. The idea of regression was one which both historians and anthropologists had been discussing for some while. The father of British anthropology, as he has been called, Sir E. B. Tylor, when he wrote his Primitive Culture

70

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
aim was to "sketch a theoretical among mankind" which he called

in 1871, said that his

course of civilization

"a progression-theory of civilization," but even then he was prepared to admit that "culture gained by progression may be lost by degradation." When Dr. Arthur

Rhind Lectures on Archaeology at 2 Edinburgh in 1876 and 1878 he was particularly interested in retrogression and regress. He cited the cities of Copan and Palenque and particularly the early glory of Egypt. It was, as Tylor and Mitchell pointed out, the obvious facts of Egyptian decay which Sir Thomas Browne was commenting on when he said of her "she poreth not upon the heavens, astronomy is died unto her, and knowledge maketh other cycles." There it was, in Browne's phrase;, and long before Spengler and Arnold Toynbee were trying to elaborate their historical cycles with a wealth of learning and tendentious interpretations. To quote Arthur Mitchell's clear words in the seventies: ''Within the range of history ... degradations are found presenting themselves both in races which are in the states of high and in races which are in the states of low civilization. In other words
Mitchell gave his
savages

become more savage

ilized less civilized.

as well as the highly civDegradation and development alike

occur within the range of history, and, this being so, can there be any sufficient reason for concluding that both have not occurred beyond that range?"
Prehistory was of course dealing with events beyond the range of history. It was reasonable, as Mitchell said, to suppose that it; too, had its degradations and devolutions. But was this merely a reasonable assumption
2

Ten

of his lectures were reprinted in his

book The Past

in the

Present:
is

What is

Civilization? (1880)

from which the quotation

taken.

PREHISTORY 71 based on an evaluation of history and a late nineteenthcentuiy skepticism about the universality of progress? Tennyson, in Locksley Hall Sixty "fears After, wrote,
in 1886, these oft-quoted lines-

THE VICTORIANS AND

And

Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good, Reversion ever dragging Evolution in the mud.

question was this as regards prehistory: was it thought that there was degradation and reversion in prehistory just because it existed in history, and in the
philosophical preconceptions of the late Victorians? What one has to ask oneself in trying to work out the ideas on prehistory of the late Victorians, and in trying

The

to assess
is this:

how

prehistory affected their ideas

if

at

all,

Gabriel de Mortfllet insisted on the picture of technological evolution which prehistory presented, was he making an objective archaelogical evaluation which enabled prehistory to confirm the Victorian idea of progress, or was he projecting into

when

prehistory his

own

And, later, and regression

was there

widely shared ideas of progress? real archaeological proof of decay

in prehistory or

was

this

a late Victorian

defeatism projected into the archaeological record? I regard the discovery of Upper Paleolithic paintings
as of the greatest importance in trying to settle this
question, and I need here

do

little

more than touch on

the details of the story. In 1864 Lartet and Christy, in a paper in the Revue Archologique, showed that Upper Paleolithic man had mobfliary art that engraved and carved bones and stones were found in undisturbed deposits in the Dordogne and the Pyrenees. Gradually the fact that these remote men of the Old Stone Age

were
art

artists was accepted. But mobfliary (or home) was one thing: cave art when first discovered was

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY J2 no means so easily assimilable. have by

We

referred to

the discoveries at Altamira. In 1875 Marcdino de Sautuola had discovered black paintings on the back walls
of the cave at Altamira, and then and there had claimed them to be of the same age as the deposits in the cave.

,

had found the polyde Sautuola 1880 published the paintings, claiming them to be Paleolithic in age. Meanwhile drawings had been found on the walls of the cave of Chabot in the Arcfeche. Altamira and Chabot precipitated a tremendous dispute. Many said that Sautuola was an impostor and a fraud, and that he had hired an artist from Madrid to do the paintings. Others said soldiers with nothing better to do had done them when hiding in the cave. Yet some from the beginning supported the claims of Sautuola. Among these was Gabriel de Mortfllet who, despite his evolutionary preconceptions, declared: "C?est Fenfance de Tart, ce riest
Four years later chromes and in
his daughter

pas Tart de Fenfant" In 1895 paintings and engravings were found on the walls of a cave at La Mouthe near Les Eyzies in the Dordogne; the entrance to this cave had been found
only after Paleolithic deposits masking it had been removed. The following year animal drawings were published from the cave of Pair-non-Pair in the Gironde and these were partly covered by undisturbed
Paleolithic deposits.

The

late

Abb6

Breufl, for long

doyen of experts on the Paleolithic, but then a young man, realized the significance of the evidence of La

Mouthe and
art

Pair-non-Pair

out in an article In the same year Scient&que. caves of Les Combarelles and discovered near Les Eyzies; in

and

set it

on the authenticity of cave in 1901 in the Revue
the

now

Font de

World-famous Gaume were
all

the following year

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY
these discoveries

73

were discussed at the Montauban meeting of the Association Franjaise pour FAvancement des Sciences. A party visited La Mouthe, Les Combarelles, and Font de Gaume and were convinced. Enifle CartaShac, who was at that time the doyen of prehistoric archaeology in France, published an article
in L'Anthropologie entitled "Mea adpa Sun seeptique" in which he recanted his earlier disbelief and

accepted Upper Paleolithic
rian days

art.

From

Upper

Paleolithic art

the end of Victowas part of the per-

spective of prehistory. (Plate III.) The length of time which it took cave art to be ac-

cepted by scholarsI do not here refer to the much slower apprehension of it by the general public was due to the Victorian conception of progress and of
similar development. For there were two things that were soon understood about the remarkable flowering of art during a period of the human past which we would now date from say 30,000 to 10,000 B.C. One is that its range in space is restricted to southern France

and northern Spain, or so it seemed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century we know now that examples of it occur in Italy and Sicily, but even so it is still very
restricted. And the second is that it came to an end; the fine naturalism, the exuberant virility, the bright colors, the Disney-like humor of these most ancient

paintings and engravings belonged to a style which came to an end. Art did not again reach a comparable level of aesthetic performance in Western and west Mediterexist at afl for

ranean Europe for thousands of years indeed did not thousands of years. Here was a blow to any idea of prehistory which

the archaeological record the same everywhere, and assumed that there was progress everywhere on

made

74

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

was obvious that, even if everyone in prehistoric Europe had passed through successive stages of stone, bronze, and iron, they had not all possessed artistic ability like those men who had worked at La Mouthe and Altamira and Font de Gaume. Prehistory had to absorb the idea, now perhaps a commonplace
parallel lines. It

to us, of the regional flowering of cultures and to realize that there were cultures, civilizations, societiescall them what you will in prehistory with different
distributions in time

and

space. It

was soon obvious to

prehistorians that everyone did not pass through a stage when he painted charging bulls on the roofs of caves,

or

great collective tombs of huge megalithic or built multiramparted hill forts like Maiden stones, Castle. Prehistory was now becoming a record of cultural

made

achievement set out in

parallel

columns and not

in one evolutionary sequence. That was the lesson which, very gradually, the prehistorians of the Victorian period were learning, though
it

was not generally learned

until the first

two decades

of the twentieth century. Yet this lesson, if imperfectly, or rather not universally, learned in late Victorian
times, did beg the same old question of cultural origins which we have seen was being asked before. If man did not develop in prehistoric times in a natural and uniform cultural evolution, how then did cultural changes and differences come about?

The

interesting thing

is

that this issue

had

really al-

ready been well discussed by the Scandinavian pioneers of the Three Age system, particularly by Thomsen and Worsaae. It is always necessary to emphasize that the concept of the Three Ages as set out in the writings and teaching and museum practice of Thomsen and Worsaae is not primarily an evolutionary one. They

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTOEY

75

did not regard the Three Ages as forming a "natural" succession in Denmark. Far from it. In his books

Worsaae on many occasions explains that the Bronze Age in Denmark did not develop step by step out of
the Danish Stone Age; "the transition is so abrupt," he wrote in the book translated into English as The Primeval Antiquities of Denmark (1849), "that the

bronze period must have commenced with the irruption of a new race of people, possessing a higher degree of cultivation than the earlier inhabitants." In the

same way, he thought, the Iron Age

in

Denmark was

the result of another invasion. early nineteenthrealized clearly thus century Scandinavian archaeologists cultural of that the development change in prehistory

The

was not by innate organic or super-organic evolution but by the arrival of new ideas from outside in a word, "The by diffusion. They even used the word diffusion.
universal diffusion of metals could only take place

by

degrees," wrote

Worsaae. So, from the second quarter

of the nineteenth century, we had set out the basic essential idea of the difference in time between the cultures of differing areas. The question now was: how

did these

new

ideas

come

into an area like Scandinavia

by trade, by the arrival of a small group of people, by invasion, or just by cultural borrowing? And whence?
In his Prehistoric Times, Lubbock argued how a Bronze Age could have come into existence in Northem Europe and set out the five possibilities which

were being discussed in the

sixties. First,

that

it

was

due to influence, secondly to the Etruscans, the to Phoenicians, fourthly to a new and more thirdly of Indo-European "race" corning from civilized

Roman

people the East, who brought with them a knowledge of bronze and overran Europe, dispossessing the earlier

76

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
The
fifth

Neolithic settlers.

theory,

which Lubbock

immediately discounted, was the evolutionary one: namely the belief that the earlier inhabitants developed peacefully and gradually on their own into a Bronze
Age.
Gradually, the ideas of migrating hordes became among late Victorian archaeologists who were

popular

reacting from the unilinear idea of progress and realizing that cultural change had to be explained in terms

of influence from outside. This problem of interpretation was not confined to the prehistory of Northern

and Western Europe. Schliemann's discovery of the civilization of Mycenae posed the question of the oriof the To some gins Mycenaeans. they were Aryans from the north; to others, Phoenicians; to others, Carians. The Bronze Age origins in Denmark and^the origins of Mycenae were all part of the same general problem of cultural origins. Some insisted on a native element in European prehistory: Salomon Reinach was one of these and he castigated those who constantly sought for invaders from the East in his Le Mirage
Oriental (1893). The great Swedish archaeologist Oscar Montelius, on the other hand, was all for eastern and outside influences and invasions. He strongly argued the ex, oriente htx theory, especially in his Orient

und Ewropa (1899). "At

a time

when the

peoples of

Europe were, so to speak, without any civilization whatsoever," he declared, "the Orient and particularly the Euphrates region and the Nile were already in enjoyment of a flourishing culture. The civilization which gradually dawned on our continent was for long only
a pale reflection of Oriental culture." Here, then, was an indication of the long ways some

JJ the had traveled of since time the simple archaeologists unilinear evolutionists. The travel was in the direction which ultimately led to the hyperdiffusionist excesses of Elliot Smith, Perry, and Lord Raglan that we shall discuss later in this course of lectures, and which we
shall see are very near to the desires of so

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY

many
and

people

for a simple explanation of archaeology

The

bracing zation of Perry and Elliot Smith, and they had not yet heard of the Sumerians, whom Lord Raglan sees as the master-civflizers of the world; but they did not do too

history. Victorians never thought up anything as all-emas the Givers of Life of the Hdiolithic Civili-

badly with their Aryan hordes. Basically they sought a simple all-embracing solution to the problem of human origins. If this solution could not be one of unilateral evolution,

why

not, then, a few clear-cut

and
In-

recognizable invasions? Even in Rice Holmes's Ancient Britain

and the

vasions of Julius Caesar, published in 1907, our prehissucceeded by a tory is set out in terms of a Paleolithic

Neolithic invasion, then by a Bronze Age invasion, and then an Early Iron Age invasion. All this, in the first decade of the twentieth century, was not very far removed from Worsaae. The truth is that by the end
of

the

nineteenth

century

prehistoric

archaeology

needed a fresh impetus, a fresh

jerk forward with

new

interpretation. techniques of discovery, late nineteenth-century prehistorians were really which had been only elaborating the basic concepts

excavation, and

The

hammered out before

look through 1859, and as one the successive seven editions of Lubbodc's Prehistoric

Times produced between 1865 and 1913 it is surprising how little change there really was: and I mean here

78

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

change in fundamental outlook there was of course plenty of change in detail and many new discoveries
to report

Indeed one senses in the
feeling that
is

late nineteenth century

a

attacking many ent day, a feeling of the inadequacy of the archaeological record in giving us a full picture of the prehistoric past. It is perhaps a reflection of this feeling that en-

prehistorians at the pres-

abled a virtually nonarchaeological prehistory to grow up during the nineteenth century, and it is with this
nonarchaeological prehistory that I wish to concern myself now. It was incidentally something that had
considerable effect
tieth century.

on

political

thought in the twen-

say that this nonarchaeological prehistory in the began writings of the humanists of the middle and late eighteenth century, such as the Scottish primitivists

One might

who were

interested in

Mr. McQuedy's words,

"in the infancy of society," in Lord Monboddo's views on the origin and progress of language, in Governor

PownalFs notions of Woodland-Men and Land-Workers. find similar views in the writings of Sven Nflsson, Professor of Zoology at Lund. His views were originally published in Swedish in 1834 and can be most easily consulted in their translation into English which appeared in 1868. The translator was Lubbock

We

and the English Scandinavia,
Nflsson,
ples, arrived at

title

The

Primitive Inhabitants of

by the comparative study of

on the mode
of the race

existing peoa classification of prehistoric man based of subsistence. There were four stages in
first,

his classification:

the savage state
is

the childhood

when man
fruits,

of berries and

and collector and you must not think I am
a hunter, fisher,

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY

79

going back to Governor Pownall when I remind you that savages are the wild men of the woods -homines sylvestres. The second stage, according to Nflsson, was the herdsman or nomad stage, when hunting was an occasional occupation but man subsisted essentially on the products of his herds. The third stage was the agriculturalman the agriculturalist and the fourth and final stage was civilization. Nilsson defined this on the basis of coined money, writing, and the division of labor. Now it is not only the professional archaeologists
these notions of the development of society in In 1836 prehistory but also the general literary world.

who had

we

find Coleridge writing that "the progress
civilization is
first

evidently agery to to the pastoral stage/'

from savfrom the hunting

Edward Tylor was writing his standard works on anthropology, he fully recognized the Danish
Sir

When

that the system of the Three Ages and fuDy agreed deman's of the was Stone Age prehistoric beginning
three difvelopment, but he proposed to distinguish labeled he these and human in the ferent stages past Anthrohis In Civilization. and Barbarism,
Savagery,

pology:

An

Introduction to the Study of

Man

and

Civilization, which was first published in 1881, Tylor defined what he meant by barbarism; it was a state of culture beginning with agriculture and ending with

which by definition meant writing. These terms and the use of a nonarchaeological prethe American anhistory of man were developed by Ancient Society his in H. Lewis Morgan thropologist subtitle of Morgan's work is particularly The (1877). in the Lines of Human interesting: it was Researches
civilization,

Barbarism to CivilizaProgress from Savagery througfi tion. Tylor had distinguished three stages; Morgan

80

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

distinguished seven seven ethnic periods as he called them, as follows: Lower Savagery from the emergence

of

man

the discovery of
arrow,

to the discovery of fire, Middle Savagery from fire to the discovery of the bow and

Upper Savagery from the bow and arrow to pottery, Lower Barbarism from the discovery of pottery to the domestication of animals, Middle Barbarism
from the domestication of animals to the smelting of iron ore (at least in the Old World; Morgan had in the Amerslightly different criteria for these periods of iron to icas), Upper Barbarism from the discovery
the invention of a phonetic alphabet, while his seventh and last stage from writing and the alphabet

onwards was
civilizations,

civilization.

Morgan

distinguished several

the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Southwest Asia, and the classical lands of Greece and Rome, and then modem civilization of which he himself was

a

part.

There are two things to remember about Morgan and his schemes. He was himself a unilateral evolutionist and was working out a progressive sequence of man's cultural evolution. He also firmly believed that
this

sequence developed naturally in different regions. It is not strange that he, an American, should be so

convinced of parallel natural cultural evolution. The and Frederick expeditions of John Lloyd Stephens Catherwood in Yucatdn in 1839 and 1840 had discovered the lost Mayan cities of Copan, Palenque,

Uxmal, and Chich6n

Itz

and had precipitated anew

the old issue of diffusion versus independent evolution. For a century and more since the publication of Stephens's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chipas and Yucatdn in 1841, the world has been arguing

about the origin of Middle American

civilization. Dif-

THE VICTORIANS AND PREHISTORY
fusion from the

8l

Old

"World, or diffusion from the

on mythical continents of Atlantis, Lemuria, and the one hand; independent evolution on the other. Wells Jakeman has summarized the modem view on the problem of Mayan origins: 'The evolution of the
civilization in apparently complete independence of the great culture-complexes of the Old World

Mu

Mayan

suggests that its separate historical reconstruction may reveal confirmatory parallels for fixing the chief causes

underlying the rise and fall of nations, and for deter8 mining the laws of human progress." While many Old World prehistorians in the twentieth century have not accepted this view, or the relevance of the American cultural record to the interpretation of Old World prehistory, it is not surprising that Lewis Morgan, with the jungle-covered Mayan cities at least nearer his doorstep than they were to the doorsteps of European archaeologists, should have felt that after all, there might be in human history a natural and inevitable cultural evolution that led perhaps separately in Egypt, China, and Middle America to a civilization of literate cities.
3

MAX WELLS

JAKEMAN, The Origin and History of the Mayas

IV

The Development of Modern
Prehistory

Throughout that formative half-century there was not a single and all-pervasive idea of prehistory among the
scholars
as

who

were, for the

first

time, seeing prehistory

something that could be obtained by archaeological means. On the contrary there was a great deal of change

of thought.

At

first,

in the full flush of Victorian evo-

lutionary thought

seemed that prehistory was just proving the earlier stages of that long single pattern that led from the beginnings of man through to Victorian prosperity itself, "the heir of all the ages in the foremost files of time," as Tennyson himself described it. But then doubts arose, several 'development sequences were distinguished, and the phenomena of retrogression and decay were all too apparent if one
it

examined such disturbing things as post-Roman Britain or the end of Upper Paleolithic art, or the civilization of the Mayas. Indeed anthropologists seemed to be turning away from archaeological prehistory and seek82

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

83

ing the keys to the prehistoric past in the comparative study of primitive societies.

There were perhaps, however, two things about which everyone was agreed by the first decade of the
twentieth century, as far as prehistoric archaeology

was concerned. One was the enormous antiquity of man; that had at last become an essential of historical and anthropological thinking, and the Ussher chronology and the Flood had gone forever, except in the fundamentalist tenets of narrow sects and crank religions. Secondly, no one had any doubt, whatever value or interpretation he gave to the facts of prehistoric archaeology, tibat in the rise of prehistory there had come about a new discipline of great value and importance. It is perhaps strange, this being so, that prehistory has taken so long to penetrate properly into our

and into our awareness and our perspecof tive the past. That this was so in the last quarter of the nineteenth century no one can have any doubt
universities,

who
I

reads books, lectures, and papers of that period. have already quoted what W. E. Gladstone said; in

1871 in his Primitive Culture Sir Edward Tylor wrote: history and prehistory of man take their proper and three places in the general scheme of knowledge,"

"The

years later, in the preface to his Cave-Hunting published the year before, Mr, Gladstone declared he was beginning to see through a dense mist to "real places,
real

men,

real

facts/'

Professor

Boyd Dawkins

said

triumphantly that "archaeology, by the use of strictly inductive methods, has grown from a mere antiquarian speculation into a science/*

That was more than eighty years ago. In 1874 Boyd Dawkins was congratulating himself and die world in become a science. Yet if general that archaeology had

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 84 one asks any modem undergraduate to write an essay on the main changes in prehistoric archaeology in the
last twenty-five years

he

will certainly

fact that it has "recently"

become
is

scientific.

put very high the And any

modern

professional archaeologist

always declaiming

about the development of scientific archaeology; this always turns out to be the developments he has witnessed or taken part in during the years immediately before his utterance. To a certain extent, and I am not
*

being cynical here, "scientific" means, in prehistory, modern and recent and anything that is away from the
horrid barrow diggers

and muddles of the nineteenth

century. Yet this must be the main underlying theme in any account of the development of prehistory be-

tween 1900 and the present day the half-century between the seventh edition of Prehistoric Times and the present that we are discussing today that it was at last becoming modem and scientific and leaving behind forever the nonarchaeological prehistory of antiquarian speculation.

could one avoid feeling, as the great were being made from the turn of the century onwards, that one was living at a time when the prehistoric past was really becoming known at last through archaeological means? In the year 1900 itself Arthur Evans began work at Knossos and unearthed the civilization which he named the Minoan. In 1904 Pumpelly and Schmidt were digging at Anau and the world was learning what a wealth of prehistoric story
Indeed,
discoveries

how

lay buried in the tells and kurgans of the Near East or the Near East as it was to archaeologists and the

general public before the curious

naming of

military

the Middle East In 1906 Winclder at work Boghazkeui, the old capital of the anbegan
it

commands made

85 Campbell Thompson and Hall were working at Ur and Eridu, and the Sumerians postdated as early as 1869 b7 Oppert, and a reality when de Saizec began work at Lagash were at last a common fact of prehistory, a fact which became a dramatic and permanent reality to the world at large when Leonard Woolley excavated the Royal Tombs at Ur in 1926. Andersson, five years before this, had discovered Yang Shao Tsun and established the early stages of Chinese prehistory, and in the same year Sahni had begun work in Harappa, and Banerji at
cient Hittites. In 1918

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

Mohenjo-Daro. The next year Sir John Marshall appeared to be bemoaning that it was the misfortune of Indian history that "its earliest and most obscure pages derive litfle light from contemporary antiquities"; he had written these words for the first volume of the Cambridge History of India before Sahni and Banerji had begun their work. In 1923 in the Illustrated London News, Marshall was announcing that the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro had revealed a new prehistoric civilization, and was comparing their
discovery with Schliemann's discoveries at Tiryns and Mycenae. In the same year, the same journal, which, since (Sir) Bruce Ingram assumed editorship in 1900,

has given a coverage to archaeology which is the envy of the world, was announcing that Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon had found and excavated the tomb of

Tutankhamen. These were indeed years of heroic discovery the quarter-century from Knossos to Tutankhamen, from Anau to the Royal Tombs at Ur and it is amazing, looking back on them, that four were taken up with
the First

World War, with
and

its its

senseless cessation of
tragic slaughter of po-

archaeological activities

86
tential

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
and
real archaeologists.

These twenty-five

years

were also a period of amazing change in the methods and aims of prehistory. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that a revolution took place in prehistoric archaeology during this quarter-century and if I were pinned in a comer and asked what were really the formative years of prehistory I would say that there were two periods, the first from 1807 to 1859 the half-century between Thomsen and the annus mirdbilis, and the
second from 1900 to Pitt-Rivers and the

1925^16 quarter-century between men who in the early twenties

revolutionized British prehistory. For there was a great revolution in prehistory in the first quarter of the present century, and it is a revolution which is most clearly

seen in the northern countries of Europe
larly in

and

particu-

the British

Isles.

Indeed

it is

not extravagant to

the British revolution in prehistory, just changes that produced the Three Age system in the first quarter of the nineteenth century were
refer to it as

as the great

a Danish (or Scandinavian) revolution in prehistory. This "revolution" which I have dramatically but not sensationally called it, was a series of remarkable

sum

changes which had actually started before 1900. The total of these changes in retrospect adds up to rev-

olutionary change: 1900 was the year in Pitt-Rivers died, and these changes of

which General which we are

speaking began with his own archaeological work. This remarkable man was born Lane-Fox and took the name of Pitt-Rivers when, in 1880, he inherited the

now

much

Rivers estates, over 29,000 acres of land, including of Cranbome Chase. Before this, as a profes-

sional soldier,

he had been concerned with the use and

development of the rifle between 1851 and 1857 at Woolwich, Enfield, Malta, and Hythe; he was virtually

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

87

the creator of the Hythe School of Musketry. He studied the development of firearms and as he did so he

found himself arranging collections of types in developing sequences. Himself imbued with the Darwinian notions of evolution, and constantly examining the sequences of firearms and noting their differences, he
formulated the idea that
that
is

be and anthropologist now

all archaeological material, to say all the material remains of the past, could arranged in sequences in what the archaeologist

The
by

call typological sequences. idea of typology was not something invented Pitt-Rivers; it had existed in the work of the early

Danish and Swedish archaeologists, and at the same time as Pitt-Rivers was working out his sequences, a
ranging in sequences lection of tools and

John Evans was busily classifying and arbronze and stone tools. The colweapons which Pitt-Rivers was making soon outgrew his house, and they eventually found their way to Oxford, where a special annex of the University Museum was built to house them. The Pitt-Fivers collections were arranged not geoand they did not necesgraphically but typologically,

man

like

contain remarkable or beautiful things. He said himself that his collections were "not for the purpose of surprising anyone, either by the beauty or value of
sarily

the objects exhibited, but solely with a view to instruction. For this purpose ordinary and typical specimens rather than rare objects have been selected and arranged
in sequence."

And

in the lectures

he gave

in

London

between 1867 and 1874, he kept

stressing the need for human culture. One of material the study of all objects in antiquarian matinterest an of of the mainsprings and ters in the seventeenth eighteenth centuries was and cultivation collection the of the cultivation taste,

88

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

of the beautiful object which could adorn the cabinet and give intrinsic pleasure as well as, or indeed instead
of,

being merely a historical document Gradually, as the nineteenth century had transformed antiquarianism into archaeology, taste and the contemplation of beautiful things were disappearing. As Dr. Joan Evans has said recently, with a tinge of regret with which we can all sympathize, it was Pitt-Rivers who gave the death

blow to
1

taste.

He

finally exorcised taste

from

archaeol-

ogy.

Of
as a

course,

one

do these

things.

man by himself does not necessarily He appears to us, looking back at him,

symbol of change. Flinders Petrie was as much an agent of this change as Pitt-Rivers; his too was an important influence in the exorcising of the ghost of taste.

He

began his work in Egypt in 1881 and was soon

formulating what became the
toric archaeology.

new method

in prehis-

on the collection and He found of and this was emphadescription everything sized in his Methods and Aims in Archaeology pubinsisted

lished in 1904. Petrie
after

began excavating in Egypt a year Lane-Fox had become Pitt-Rivers and assumed control of his large estates. Pitt-Rivers at once began

a series of excavations in Wessex; he had dug before and some of his techniques stem back to Canon Greenwell

and William Cunnington. But whatever he had

learned from past excavators, he developed and perfected. He had plenty of money and plenty of time,

and a long training in military staff methods, survey, and precision behind him. His excavations were well organized, thoroughly carried out; he demanded the highest standards of care from his men. He insisted on
1

JOAN EVANS,

A History of the Society of Antiquaries of London

(1956), 341 .

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY
the total excavation of
sites

89

and substituted

this for

the old-time technique of digging hopefully during an afternoon into a barrow and looking for a primary burial with a beaker or urn or bronze dagger that would look nice in one's private collection.

And he began

excavating settlement sites as well as burial mounds. Pitt-Rivers also insisted on the accurate recording of
his excavations

and that

this record

should contain the

exact position where everything was found.

He made

plans and sections, detailed drawings and descriptions of all his excavations, and even made models of the main sites which he dug. There is no doubt that the

modem

techniques of excavation

now

practiced in

Northwestern Europe began in his work on Cranborne Chase between 1880 and 1900, and the four privately printed volumes describing his work achieved a very high standard of archaeological publication. As I have
said elsewhere, "in fifteen years

he transformed

exca-

vation from the pleasant hobby an arduous scientific pursuit." 2 And throughout, he insisted on the study of ordinary objects and of dU ordinary objects. "Common things are of more importance than particular things, because they are more preva-

of barrow digging to

lent^ he wrote in 1898. Here, then, right at the turn of the century, was the beginning of a revolution in archaeological technique. of sites, the Typology, the meticulous examination were the these of the of phenomena totality study
as an things which Pitt-Rivers and Petrie bequeathed twentieth the to century. early archaeological legacy Petrie himself went on to practice these techniques un-

was, however, a legacy which was not until taken up, developed, and expanded extensively * A Hundred Years of Archaeology, 173.
til

the

forties. It

90
after the

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

1914-18 war, and it was developed in Britain mainly by two men, R. E. M. Wheeler and Cyril Fox. In his autobiography, Still Digging (1955), Sir Mortimer Wheeler has looked bade at the moment in 1919

when he began
in

his serious career of excavation.

Between 1880 and 1900, [he wrote] General Pitt-Rivers Cranborne Chase had brought archaeological digging and recording to a remarkable degree of perfection, and had presented his methods and results meticulously in several imposing volumes. Then what? Nothing. Nobody paid the slightest attention to the old man. One of his
assistants

had even proceeded

to dig

up a

lake-village

much as Schliemann had dug up Troy,

or St. John Hope, Silchester; like potatoes. Not only had the dock not 8 gone on, but it had been set back.

This
carried

is

Wheeler's crisp verdict.

The war

of 1914-18

himself describes

Wheeler of four one unionly in to survive Wroxeter students at versity 1913 digging the war, and the sense of isolation which was so apparent to him in 1919. But it is also true that the earlier tradition was carried on to some extent between PittRivers's death and Wheeler's work at Segontium in 1921 by a few workers such as J. P. Bushe Fox in Wroxeter and Hengistbuiy Head, James Curie at Newstead in Scotland, and John Ward in South Wales, as Wheeler himself has recognized. Neverthdess, the work of Wheeler and Fox in the early twenties had the
away many
potential archaeologists.

how he was the

real

appearance of a fresh
Pitt-Rivers
traditions,

start;

they turned back to

the

expanded and improved them, and so changed, handed them on to the excavators of the present day. It is not my object here to
8

SIR

MORTIMER WHEELER,

Still

Digging (1955), 66-7.

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY
catalogue the excavations
lished his reputation

91
estab-

by which Wheeler

and perfected

even those

who do not know

his technique, but of the beginnings at

Segontium and the Brecon Gaer and

at Caerleon will

know

of his excavations at

Maiden Castle before the

1939-45 war, at Harappa, Arikamedu, and Taxfla in India, towards the end and after the war, and more recently at Stanwick. Nor is it object to do more

my

than mention in passing those

who have carried on
like

the

traditions of British excavation re-created

Wheeler

in the twenties

men

by Fox and Ian Richmond,

Christopher Hawkes, Grahame Clark, Stuart Piggott, C. A. Ralegh Radford, C. W. Phillips, to mention a few living names of those who are at the top of their
profession; or

men

like

V. Nash Williams, B. H.

St. J.

O'Nefl, and Sean 6'RionMin, to mention a few who, do I alas, have died in the fullness of their work. Nor
create the impression, because I am emphaBritish aspects of this story, that the same the sizing not taking place in some other parts of were changes Northern Europe in Holland, Germany, and Scandinavia. It was not, however, happening all over Europe,

want to

and we may reflect with pride that the was a very important element in the

British tradition
re-creation of

a

new
tory

We have,

archaeological field technique. then, a new factor in the ideas of prehiswhich have been formulated in the last fifty years;

the idea that prehistory should not merely be written from archaeological sources but that it should be based

on

partial

accurate, denineteenth-centailed, and complete. While the early if not treasure hunts, but very tury excavations were, examinations of the material, our modem exca-

archaeological information

which

is

vationsor at

least the best of

them

are total

and

92

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

complete examinations of the material. I would remind you here that there are two aspects of excavation: there is the actual surgery of the landscape by pick, shovel, trowel, knife, and scalpel with all the photographic and diagrammatic recording of this operation, and there is then the examination of everything found by every available method the analysis of form and material of all the artifacts found, and of all associated

This analytical aspect of the study of the archaeological material has been one of the major developments since the early twenties and now we are
material.

accustomed to have in archaeological reports the findings of specialists who have worked on pollens or on
snails,

on

soils

or on grain impressions. Even more

exciting has been the development since 1945 of the technique of exact dating by Carbon-i4 analysis. This

remarkable technique, first discovered by Libby at Chicago as a by-product of research into atomic physics,
enables organic substances to be dated in calendar years by the quantity of Carbon-i4 they contain. This is a

bad and bald and brief way of describing this amazing technique which has enabled people to date
very

the late Mesolithic settlement at Seamer, for example, to 7500 B.O, and the duration of the cultures with which Upper Paleolithic art is associated as from 30,000 to 10,000 B.C.

one of the things that one must what is really represented by the modem scientific technique of excavationit is the extraction of every available piece of evidence that can be used for building up the historical contexts of the past, and for that matter even the detailed recording of evidence which in itself at the time does not seem to make sense, It is one of the many remarkable feais

This

certainly

stress in trying to see

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY
tures, for

93

example, of Pitt-Riveis's work that in his excavation notes, reports, and models, he recorded information about his excavations which would be used
later,

and indeed has been used

later,

by men

like

Professor Hawkes, to arrive at conclusions which PittRivers did not or could not have reached.4 It is often
is not only a recovery of the but to a certain degree a destruction of the past, past and in many ways this is true. Everyone who undertakes the surgery of the landscape which is excavation

said that all excavation

has a responsibility to future generations of archaeologists and historians as well as to his own generation.

not only by complete and meticulous digging but by complete and meticulous record. It is one of the features of present midtwentieth-century excavation which vitally affects what ideas we now have of the prehistoric past that we live in a climate of thought which believes in the highest possible standards of excavational technique and publiTTiis responsibility is discharged

cation.
Sir Cyril Fox as one of those who did so much to re-create in Brittwenties eady ain the technique of excavation which Pitt-Rivers had
I

have mentioned

in the

Fox was also a field archaeologist of the There is often confusion among archaeoloSir Leongists as to what is meant by field archaeology; ard Woolley once reviewed O. G. S. Crawford's book Archaeology in the Field, and declared with surprise that he had always thought of himself as a field archaeologist until he lead Crawford's book and found that he was "only an excavator!" In the minds of many people there is a dichotomy between the indoors or study or closet archaeologist, and the archaeologist
first

created.

first

rank.

*

C. F. C. Hiwras, Archaeolo&cd

Journal, 1954, 145.

94

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

who

goes out into the field the dirt archaeologist as he is sometimes called, the man who gets mud on his boots and sand in his eyes. But the activities of the
archaeologist in the field are of two different kinds:
is the surgical aspect of field archaeology, and secondly the nonsurgical or physical aspect of the study of the visible material remains of
first,

excavation which

the past It

is

this

was

referring

when he used

second aspect to which Crawford the phrase field archaeol-

ogy as distinct from excavation; this tradition of field archaeology is one which has been buflt up in Britain over the centuries. It began with exact observers and
painstaking travelers to the past like John Aubrey and Edward Lhuyd, and was developed in the late nine-

teenth century and early twentieth century

by men

like

Williams Freeman, whose Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire was published in 1915. Crawford and Fox were heirs of this field archaeological tradition, and developed it in various ways, tradition which produced on the one hand The

the

Long

Barrows of the Cotswolds, and the megalithic and period maps of the Ordnance Survey; and, on the other, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region and OSa's Dyke. This aspect of modem field archaeology has a
feature closely akin to what we have been saying about excavatkmal technique. It, too, aims at total information, at the study of the totality of visible archaeological phenomena. When John Aubrey was asked to write about Avebuiy and Stonehenge he begged to be allowed to defer his work until he had seen all the other

comparable monuments in England and Wales. Because of the extension of this idea not only in principle but in practice, we can now study all the representatives

of any archaeological category of

monument

or

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY
artifact
If,

95

for example, at the present

moment we

want to study Stonehenge and Avebuiy and say, as John Aubrey did, that we can do so only against the
background of all other comparable examples of stone cirdes, we can do so, because twentieth-century field
archaeology has brought us to the position where we can view the total pattern of these monuments. The
distribution

map

is

one of the main instruments of

archaeological research and exposition, but because it is a commonplace of books and papers, do not let us forget what it is trying to do to accomplish and to

demonstrate the totality of information about some archaeological fact^ to study the total evidence in space regarding one aspect of the material remains of the past I have said that lie field archaeologist is concerned
with the visible material remains of the past and so he

one who plods laboriously over the surface of the ground observing barrows and linear earthworks and the low grass-covered banks of
is

and was.

He

is

essentially

Freelong-ruined houses or deserted fields. Williams the that noted a half long man, over by century ago, shadows of a late summer evening a field archaeologist

on a

hfll

could see earthworks with a clarity denied

him

when standing on them; they fell into patterns not visible on ihe ground. He once said to Crawford that "one ought to be a bird to be a field archaeologist" The development of aircraft and of aerial photography archaeoloduring and after the 1914-18 war enabled After that birds. become to (Plate IV.) gists virtually war these opportunities were brilliantly seized by no one so wdl as O. G. S. Crawford in England. But air Freeman photography not only revealed what Williams
expected the air archaeologist to observe, namely shadow marks, but crops and soil marks leading in a

96
dramatic
server. I
fiat fields,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
to the discovery of sites, in apparently that were totally invisible to the ground obknow of few things more dramatic in archaeo-

way

technique than walking over a plowed field in spring armed with an air photograph showing the marks of plowed-out banks and filled-in ditches on a
logical

photograph taken in the height of the growth of the previous June's com, and being totally unable to see

on the ground these buried ghosts of a
scape.

prehistoric land-

Aerial

reconnaissance, like

Carbon-i4 dating, is surprising advances in the archaeologist's technique in

tie technique of one of the most remarkable and

the last quarter-century or more. But what; you may ask, do all these technical advances add up to these scientific techniques, this total
excavation, our

new

typologies,

our total

field surveys,

the distribution maps, and air photography? First and foremost they add up, with all the fresh discoveries that are of being made, to an enormous

body

facts,

and what
facts.

is

more, an enormously complicated
is

body of

Nowhere was and

this

more

directly

apparent ihan in the study of cultural sequences. have seen that the sequence of cultures became more and more complicated as the detailed knowledge of archaeology developed. And what is more, the sequences appeared to be different in different areas. What was even more complicated was that the old idea of a sequence in a area was

We

de Mortfflet had organized an elaborate scheme for French archaeology whose basic feature was successive periods or epochs. If we look at Gabriel de MortQlet's Formation de la Nation Frangaise, published in 1897, we get at once a dear idea of the'single sequence idea. Here the prehistoric past of man is dilike

man

single

collapsing.

A

PLATE

I.

FRERE'S

HAND AXES

(After Archaeologia)

".

.

.

who had
weapons

a people evidently weapons of war, fabricated and used by not the use of metals. . . The situation in which these were found may tempt us to refer them to a very remote
.

world," period indeed, even beyond that of the present

JOHN

FRERE

PLATE

II.

SCHLIEMANX'S EXCAVATIONS AT TROY

By

courtesy of

Thames

6-

Hudson Photo Archives
alive in the

Schliemann "by digging in the ground made
dusty
hillside of

Homer come

the Troad and later at Mycenae. He had created a fresh ." chapter in the human past, had himself written prehistory

PLATE

III.

UPPER PALEOLITHIC CAVE ART, NIAUX

^ r^Mf
4
'Trom
the end of Victorian days Upper Paleolithic art was part of the

perspective of prehistory."

PLATE

IV. AIR PHOTOGRAPHS OF MAIDEN CASTLE, DORSET

Photo:

}.

K.

St.

Joseph. University of Cambridge Committee for Aerial Photography

Photo:

/.

K.

St.

Joseph.

Crown copyright

reserved

Dr. Williams Freeman "once said to Crawford that 'one ought to be a
bird to be a field archaeologist/
virtually to

The development of aircraft and of aerial photography during and after the 1914-18 war enabled archaeologists
become
birds."

PLATE
(a)

V.

IN

CORNWALL

MEGALITHIC TOMBS (b) IN PORTUGAL

Photo: Leisner

". . . the megalithic tombs of Western Europe. In the nineteenth century the likenesses between megalithic tombs from Denmark and the Orkneys ." to Iberia and the Mediterranean were appreciated.
.
.

PLATE

VI.

TOLLUXD MAX

Photograph: STctional Museum, Copenhagen

'Very rarely are we given special Danish peat-bogs like Tollund
examples of
flesh in

clues:

preserve for
.

the bodies in the us the oldest

prehistory.

.

."

PLATE

VII. PORTRAIT HEAD OF A CELTIC WARRIOR FROM MSECKE-fcEBROVICE, CZECHOSLOVAKIA

Photograph: National Museum, Prague
also representations of human beings in early art but they in the way of racial characteristics to go on. . . ." give us little

'There are

PLATE

VIII.

CYCLADIC FIGURINE FROM SARDINIA

Pnotogftiph: Edtctn Smith

'*.

.

.

the pleasure of prehistory

is

in the recovery of the treasures of

man's

prehistoric past that

can today admire and enjoy ... the brilliant simplicity and purity of line of the stylized Cycladic figurines. ..."

have been dropped on the way and lost ...

we

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

97

vided into three ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron, and these are split up into p&iodes, namely the Stone Age
into eolithique, paleolithic/lie, and neolithique, and the Iron Age, for example, into galatienne (the Galatians

to whom St. Paul addressed an Epistle were, some of us forget^ Celts), the romaine, and the merovingienne. These periodes were in turn split up into epoques; there
is no point in detailing them here, but let us just look at the division of the Paleolithic. This was split up into

namely the Chdlean, Acheulian, MousMagdalenian, and Tourassian. It did look, even if the prehistoric sequences were not the same in neighboring countries, as though the story was merely one of detailing the epochs. In the beginning of the twentieth centuiy the whole idea of these successive epochs began to be doubted and the fabric of subdivisions to crumble. In 1909 at the Grotte de Valle, near Gibaja (Santander) in north Spain, the Abb6 Breufl and Professor Obemaier discovered a classic deposit of one "epoch," namely the
six epoques,
terian, Solutrean,

Azilian, together with microlithic flints typical of another "epoch/' the Tardenoisian. After this, archaeolo-

who had been arguing whether the Azilian came before or after the Tardenoisian could stop arguing. 7 "After this discovery/ said Hugo Obermaier, "it could
gists

no longer be questioned that the Azilian and the Tardenoisian were contemporary." But what did it mean
if two epochs were going to be contemporary? It meant of course that they were not epochs, that the archaeologists, who, after all, had developed out of being geologists and had for long been thinking in geological terms of time and fossil-directors, had to rethink their basic principles and think in terms of historical time and man.

98
All this

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
was

really the great moment when prehistoric broke away from the quite understandarchaeology inherited conceptions of geology and the natural ably

geographers and anthropologists some while been canvassing a new idea with regard to human groupings, and an idea which was to supersede the political idea of nations and tribes.
sciences.

The human

had

for

Ratzel in

Germany

in the eighties of the nineteenth

century had been distinguishing what he called "cultural complexes," and his pupil Leo Frobenius developed this idea and studied what he called "culture-circles."

German

ethnologists like Graebner, Schmidt, Anker-

mann, and others gradually extended this idea and soon archaeologists began to see that what they were studying was not a series of epochs but an assemblage of cultures. The prehistDrian had been studying the distribution of prehistoric life in time and space; if these distributions and their associations were planned on a graph with space-time co-ordinates, it was found that lenticular-shaped masses developed and to these masses which are persistent assemblages of
material traits
"culture." This

now gave the name an unfortunate use of a perhaps more widespread term, and it is an especially limited form of a much wider concept; but, at least from the
the prehistorian
is

eariy years of the nineteenth century

through to the 1939-45 war, it seemed a good and a workable concept The prehistorian had then to readjust his views, and to realize that he was no longer dealing with unilateral sequences but that he was studying the distri-

bution in time and space of the culture (and of necessity mainly the material culture) of different societies.
views of teachers and workers

This new idea tack a long time to penetrate into the who were imbued with

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

99

the nineteenth-century ideas of unilateral sequences to such an extent as almost to have given it a religious significance. Perhaps religious significance is the right

word to use here. The earlier sequence of Flood and 4004 B.C. had been exchanged for a sequence of epochs, and to many people in the earlier twenties of this century, this new sequence had attained something of the status of an archaeological fundamentalist doctrine. Compare George Grant MacCurdy's table "The Chronology of Prehistory" in his admirable book Human
Origins: A Manual of Prehistory, published in 1924; or Macalister's Textbook of European Archaeology

(1921); or

M. C.
first

Burkitt's Prehistory, also published

Dawn of European Civwhich came out in 1925. ilization, I have described Childe's Dawn as "not merely a book of incomparable archaeological erudition but ... a new starting point for prehistoric archaeology/* 5 These words were written more than ten years ago and I would not now want to modify them in any way. Here, in 1925, with the Dawn was a new starting point in cultural prehistory. Gone was the simple evolutionary tie a Here was complexprehistory studying sequence.
in 1921, with

Gordon

Chflde's

the

edition of

ity

toric

of cultures, studying human society in the prehispast Guide's lead was soon followed all over the

world by those analyzing and writing about prehistory. One might say that one of the main tasks of the archaeological synthesist in the fifteen to twenty years following 1925 seemed to be the elaboration of
individual cultures; and for the simple evolutionary sequence we begin to get, instead, Beaker Cultures, Foodvessel Cultures, Passage-grave Cultures,

Rinyo-Clacton

Cultures,
5

and when

suitable geographical or taxonomic

A

Hundred Years of Archaeology, 247.

10O

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
out,

names ran

we

reverted to letters

there appeared Neolithic

A

and numbers and and and B, Iron Age A, B,

andC. The

British Isles themselves provide an admirable example of this process at work. In the times of the
earlier synthesists, it

was all very easy to understand and to write about. I have already referred to Rice Holmes and his Ancient Britain and the Invasions of
the Neolithic race or people introduced the Neolithic, they were replaced by the Bronze Age race or people who brought in metal-working, and eventually by the
Iron Age race who introduced the Early Iron Age. But soon there were cracks in this admirably simple structure. Arthur Evans, later to become famous as the discoverer of the

Julius Caesar: there in the simple synthesis of 1907

Minoan civilization of Crete, published in 1890 in Arc/ideologic his finds of what he described as a Late Celtic um-field at Aylesford in Kent; he more-

over identified the Aylesford people with the Bdgae who were in history known as invaders of southeast

doing this he was of course recognizing a culture within the Early Iron Age, and a sepseparate arate group of invaders within the Three Age invasion
Britain. In

by Rice Holmes and his G. S. O. Crawford, working on districontemporaries. butional and other studies, suggested, in the early twenties, that the Bronze Age was not a single and
pattern of prehistory set out
unitary phase of development and that the Late Bronze Age was a separate culture introduced by a separate

group of invaders. By the late twenties, then, the story of Britain in
post-Paleolithic

times

was already becoming more

complicated than the kte-nineteenth-century systematists had believed possible. A Neolithic was succeeded

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

1O1

by an Early and Middle Bronze Age culture broken by an invasion which brought in the Late Bronze Age,
then a further Early Iron Age invasion which contained further separate invasions like the
Aylesford invasion of Evans.
itself

Belgic

In their Archaeology in England and Wales 1924-31 T. D. Kendrick and C. F. C. Hawkes set out a complicated picture of cultures and invasions. But our best example of the logical evolution of Chflde's ideas is provided by Childe himself in his book The Prehistoric Communities of the British Isles, first published in 1940. Here there is set out an amazing sequence of

culturesamazing that is to a person brought up on Gabriel de Mortfllet or Rice Holmes. If we look at southern England alone we find Windmill Hfll and
Peterborough Neolithic cultures, the cultures of the Tomb Builders, the Beaker cultures, the Wessex culture, the Food-vessel and Cinerary Urn culCollective

the Deverel-Rimbuiy Late Bronze Age people, then Iron Age i, Iron Age A 2, Iron Age B, and the of Iron Belgae Age C. Here was indeed complexity and
tures,

A

detail, but,
all this

one

asks,

complexity of detail and culture?

what was happening to man in Was he being

forgotten?

One thing was sure. The old idea of a Master Race or a Master Civilizing People was vanishing. As the records of the past become detailed in such a compliway in each region studied, it was impossible to one group of tivflizers spreading from one region. Rather could one see no more than small-scale and localized movements, such as the Belgae from northeast France and Belgium to southeast England, or the builders of Passage Graves from southwest Spain and Portugal to Brittany, Ireland, and west Wales. Precated
see

102
history
it

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

began to look in the thirties and forties as would resolve itself into the exercise of tracing small cultural movements and invasions. The great Master Race had gone, at least in official prehistory, but^ as we shall see in the next lecture, it was by no
though

means

entirely gone, and I think we shall appreciate that in the hyperdiffusionist theories of Elliot Smith, Perry, and Lord Raglan there is not merely a survival

of the old nineteenth-century ideas of master races, not merely a far-reaching conviction that nothing can be

invented twice, but a deepseated desire for a simple story of man's past, and a genuine and not unnatural
reaction against the complicated cultural and invasion pattern which was emerging as prehistory in the sec-

ond

quarter of the twentieth century.
official prehistorians,

The

however,

who

taught and
in 1925

worked during the period from Chflde's
to the 1939-45

Dawn

war P3^

little

attention to those

who

were finding their gradual elaboration of the cultural sequence difficult to master. And we must admit here and now that the detail of prehistory is difficult to assimilate; it is not to be wondered at that the general public sometimes prefer the simplicity of Phoenicians and Druids and Egyptians to Beaker Folk and Iron

AgeB.
But, on the whole, I think it fair to say that between 1925 and 1939, the period with which we have been

concerned,

official prehistorians

great deal about
prehistory, or

did not bother a very what the public could make out of

whether prehistory was popular with the the task was, by scientific excavation, public. by rigorous comparative study, and by the use of all ancillary scientific techniques possible, to get out the record of the past And this was not a single unitary

To them

DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN PREHISTORY

103

record, not the record of the spread of SL master race, but a record of hundreds of cultures each varying in distribution in time and space.

Prehistory had become a layer cake but a cake whose layers changed as you turned it round and moved to a different part of the world. Then as you turned the

you saw that the differently colored layers, gaily stuffed with the artificial material of past human societies, were in fact not layers but lenticles. But the
is a correct one and was an undergraduate and research student before the war it did seem that it was a complicated layer cake that I was studying. Do not misunderstand me; I am not trying to make fun out of this essential phase in the development of prehistory. I am only saying that this was in the thirties the prevalent view of prehistory; just as the Fog and the Flood had been replaced by the unilateral evolutionary sequences of the Victorians, so now, a half-century of new techniques

cake

general analogy of a layer cake
I

when

vastly increased knowledge produced us this gaily colored layer cake. "We shall see how this layer cake satisfied or dissatisfied those who came to admire and eat it historians,

and

geographers, anthropologists, politicians, prehistorians themselves. shaH begin by looking at those who deliberately set it aside the hyperdiffusionists who, by their actions, could almost be said to have set aside

We

also a hundred years and more of archaeology, and gone back to the guesswork of pre-archaeological pre-

Diffusion and Distraction

We

are, at first,

mainly concerned with a very great

man who was a Fellow of my own College in Cambridge, and who has been described by Warren Dawson, who edited a book of essays that form the biographical record of his life, as "one of the foremost anatomists and thinkers of his age," and also as "one of the outstanding intellectual personalities of his age."

This man, Grafton Elliot Smith, was, and

is, the outstanding example of one who fell, as those interested in prehistory are prone to fell, into that extraordinary

and

interesting intellectual error

the simplistic heresy

of hypeidiffusion.

Grafton Elliot Smith was born at Grafton in New South Wales in 1871 the very year in which Tylor published his Primitive Culture. Not only because of this coincidence, nor even because Elliot Smith was himself later to write much about Tylor, we must now take a backward glance at this most distinguished fig-

104

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
ure, father of British anthropology as he has been called, friend of Huxley, Wallace, Spencer, Lyell, Lub-

bock, and Darwin, whose work
briefly

we have already very touched upon. Tylor, whose dates are 1832 to 1917, was, to Elliot Smith, "one of the most significant figures of the Victorian age/' and he says these words
in his essay
J.

on Tylor in The Great Victorians (edited Massingham and Hugh Massingham), and declares that he used these words advisedly because Tylor thought "the most vital thing in the wodd is
by H.
the understanding of human nature/' Tylor traveled because his health broke

down when

working in his father's brass foundry. He traveled in Mexico with Henry Christy, the English banker who worked with the French paleontologist Lartet in the

Upper Paleolithic sites in the Dordogne. Breakdowns in health have only too often been most detrimental to scholarship: here was one which, together with the stray meeting with Christy, was extremely beneficial to learning. Tyler's interests were turned to anthropology. His first book related to his travels: it was called Anahuac or Mexico and the Mexicans (1861). His second was Researches into the Early History of Mankind, and it came out in 1865
the year of the publication of Lubbocfc's Prehistoric Times and was nothing short of epoch-making. It
was, of course, primarily a plea for the study of existing preliterate societies but also for the study of the
origins

exploration of

of man. "Civilization/*

he

wrote,

'TDeing a

process of long and complex growth, can only be thoroughly understood when studied throughout its entire
is continually needed to explain the and the whole to explain the past." In his Represent, searches he fully examined the various views about the

range; that the past

1O6

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

origins of civilization and of cultural change. "Sometimes," he wrote, "it may be ascribed to the like working of men's minds under like conditions, and,

sometimes,

it is

intercourse, direct or indirect,

a proof of blood relationship, or of between the races among

whom

it is

found."

Six years later, the year in which, as

we have

said,

Grafton Elliot Smith was born, Tylor elaborated the

argument of his earlier book in and then, ten years later, in
Introduction to the Study of

his Primitive Culture,

Man

his Anthropology, an and Civilization.

Tylor's subsequent career need not concern us unduly here. In 1883 he became Keeper of the University Museum in Oxford the Museum which housed the
Pitt-Rivers collections: in 1884 he was made Reader in Anthropology and twelve years later became a Pro-

fessorthe
Isles.

first

Professor of Anthropology in the British

What is important, here and now, is that Tylor was a great hero to Elliot Smith, and that Tylor himself
was
explain
I say this I must immediately using this somewhat tendentious word. There were, in the second half of the nineteenth century, as we have seen, two explanations current as
3.

diffusionist,

\Vhen

how

I

am

to the origin of the cultural changes which were manifest in the archaeological record, in history, and in the

modem world, and these explanations were usually centered over such things as the appearance, in two different parts of the world in the archaeological and
ethnographical record, of apparently the same cultural features. One explanation was that these features had
evolved separately and developed independently. The other was that a feature had spread from one area to
another, that
it

had

in fact

been diffused

by

trade,

IOJ by the movement of people, or by culture contact. It is these two explanations of culture change that we
refer to when we talk of evolution versus diffusion in the study of human cultural development There is of course no necessary conflict between these

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION

two

views; as

Lowie

said

in the twentieth century,

looking back at the Anthropological Institute in the nineteenth century, here "evolution . . lay down
.

amicably beside diffusion." As we have seen, the early Scandinavian archaeologists believed in the possible truth of both evolution and diffusion, and so did Pitt-

So did Tylor, and you will remember the passage quoted from Tylor in which he mentioned several agencies of cultural change the like working of men's minds, blood relationship, and intercourse. The controversy about all this begins when we start to argue about the relative importance of the factors
Rivers.
I

have

just

in cultural change,

and when we

find people

maneu-

vering themselves into, or pledging, positions in which only one explanation is possible. Adolf Bastian, the German scholar bom in Bremen in 1826, is the out-

and-out evolutionist who would not believe in diffusion, and a textbook example of such a person. He argued that by a general law the psychical unity of man everywhere produced similar ideas; different geographical environments might produce different responses, and there could of course be contacts in later historic times, but the basic idea was the psychic unity of man
and, therefore, the independent evolution of culture. TTiese ideas of Bastian's were a form of super-organic

or cultural or social evolution. Others interested in anthropology flew to the opposite extreme and one such
early diffusionist was a Miss Buddand who, from 1878 onwards, set out in a series of papers they have names

108

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
"Prehistoric Intercourse

like "Primitive Agriculture/'

between East and West," "Four as a Sacred Number," etc. a most violent and uncompromising hyperdiffusionism. According to Miss Buckland and this is the key doctrine that is implicit in Elliot Smith and his

was never, never independently it -was not If you read Miss Buckland it wfll give you a foretaste of Elliot Smith, for she was writing about sun and serpent worship, and the spread of agriculture, weaving, pottery, and metals all over the earth. 1 Miss Buckland was writing her polemics as Grafton Elliot Smith was growing up in New South Wales and qualifying as a doctor at Sydney. It soon became clear to his chief at Sydney, Professor J. T. Wilson, that Elliot Smith was "meant for a life-work of scientific investigation rather than for the professional life of a medical practitioner." He was sent to England, befollowers
civilization

acquired. It

could not be and

came a Research Student
bridge, in

at St. John's College,

Cam-

1896,

and a Research Fellow there three

years later. In 1900 Alexander Macalister, the Professor of Anatomy in Cambridge, conveyed to the young
Elliot

Smith an invitation to become the

first

occupant

of the Chair of

School at factor in the development of Efliot Smith's hyperdiffusionism was his stay in but I think it well been have Alexander Egypt, may
Macalister himself

Anatomy Cairo. The prime

at the

Government Medical

who

first

interested Elliot

Smith

in

the problems and pitfalls of cultural origins. Of Macalister, Elliot Smith wrote, "His chief interest is anthropological.
If

anything delights

inventing
1

some new craniometric index

him more than it is the manu10.

For Miss A.

W.

Buckland see R. H. LOWIE, The History of

E/uiologicdZ Theory (1937), p. 90

and footnote

facture of

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION lOQ some cacophonous name to brand it But he

is equally interested in Egyptian history, in Irish and Gaelic literature and archaeology, in the evolution of

Ecclesiastical

Vestments

...

in the

Cambridge

col-

legiate system, in the specific identity of the

Egyptian

cat, and the progress of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, among many more or less (probably less) kindred subjects." This enormous catholicity of interest Elliot Smith admired and practiced. Elliot Smith fell in love with Cairo "the gayest and

most cosmopolitan city on the face of the earth," he wrote, "and intensely fascinating." The fascination was, of course, partly the antiquities which obtruded themselves on the attention of an intelligent, alert, inquiring traveler like Elliot Smith. "But," he wrote in 1901, "I have not quite resisted the temptation to dabble in
Egyptology."

Not

quite.

The

volved in the study of ancient
early Egyptian sites

more's the pity. Soon he was inhuman remains from

and from predynastic sites. He was able to study a chronologically unbroken series of human remains from 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. and then
to Coptic graves. The result of his complete examination was his book The Ancient Egyptians first

on

published in 1911. In 1902 he was referring to "this sudden burst into anthropology," but the following year was saying, "for the next six months I expect to

be a slave to anthropology/* and

in that year

he made

his first detailed study of the technique of mummificaDawson was tiona study which according to

Wanen

destined "to have such far-reaching effects." What a true comment this was; mummification was the key-point in Elliot Smith's great Egyptocentric
hyperdiflfasionist doctrine.

He

believed that the tech-

11O

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

nique of embalming was so complicated in Egypt that it could not have been invented identically, in all its
complexity, anywhere else. Whenever, therefore, he

came across the practice of embalming and mummification elsewhere he felt himself forced to conclude that it had spread from Egypt "Little did I realize," he
wrote in the preface to the second (1923) edition of his Ancient Egyptians, "when I was writing what was
intended to be nothing more than a brief interim re. that this little book was destined to port open up a new view or rather to revise and extend an old and
.

*

neglected

method of

interpretation of the history of

civilization." Eagerly,

with energy and zeal
missionary.

he took up the diffusionist view and with much of the ardor of a

The details of Elliot Smith's career from Egypt onwards are simple: he went to Manchester as Professor
of

don, in 1919.

and to University College, Londied in 1937. At Manchester and London he proved himself as a great anatomist, teacher, and administrator. In both these places, as

Anatomy

in 1909

He

well as wherever

he

traveled over the world,

he

also

preached his doctrines of the diffusion of culture

from

Egypt These

doctrines were set out in

many

books.

First his Migrations of Early Culture in

1915, then Evolution of the Dragon in 1919, Elephants and Effcnofogfefc in 1924, In the Beginning: The Origin of

The

Civilization in

1928, Human History in 1930, The Diffusion of Culture in 1933, * raention the most statements of his case in book form. He important
disciples: as for

had many enthusiastic
fred Jackson,

example Wil-

who

in 1917 wrote Shells as Evidence of

who

the Migrations of Early Culture and Wanen Dawson, wrote Custom of Couvade in 1929, but most of

all his disciple

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION 111 was W. J. Peny, who was first Reader

in Comparative Religion in the University of Manchester when Elliot Smith was there, and then Reader

of

Cultural Anthropology in London when Elliot Smith moved there. Peny was in many ways more enthusiastic and in-

transigent than his master.

He

wrote

The Children

of

the

Sun

(1923),

(1923),

The

Origin of Magjc and Religion Megdttthic Culture of Indonesia (1918),

The

and a general summary designed for the ordinary reader called The Growth of Civilization. This last book was first published in 1924 and was reissued in 1937 by Penguin Books with all the widespread public appeal and wide circulation that such publication acquires. In the brief description on the jacket of the Penguin Books edition, it was said of Perry: "He is one of the
chief supporters of the 'diffusionist' theory of the growth of culture." In an analysis of the growth of this theory he stresses that two things most affected Elliot Smith: the first, which we have mentioned, was embalming and mummification. The second was megalithic monuments; Elliot Smith had conceived the idea that the pyramids and mastabas of ancient Egypt were

the prototypes of the megalithic monuments that are found, in a very wide diversity of form, all over the
ancient world. Elliot Smith could not believe that mummification and megalithic architecture could have

been invented more than once and he, therefore, concluded that both "practices" had been diffused from
ancient

Egypt

then began to see most of the elements of all culture as originating in Egypt, and defined a culturecomplex of about thirty centuries ago which spread 'Tike an exotic leaven" the words are those of Elliot

He

112

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

Smith and Peny over the world, taking with it civilization. This original Egyptian civilization was the Heleolithic or Archaic Civilization; Elliot Smith and Peny saw small groups of people setting out, mainly by sea7 from Egypt and colonizing and civilizing the world. These merchant ventures of five thousand years ago were "the Children of the Sun." But why, some people asked, did they set out on
these extraordinary world travels? The answer given by Elliot Smith was in terms of the Givers of Life f ormula,
it here in his own words. "In delving into the remotely distant history of our species/' he wrote in The Evolution of the Dragon, "we

and we had best give

be impressed with the persistence with which, throughout the whole of his career, man has been seeking ... for an elixir of life to give added "vitality to the dead ... to prolong the days of active life to the living, to restore growth and to protect his own life from all assaults, not merely of time but also of circumstance/* These world travelers were then, according to Elliot Smith and Peny, looking for elixirs, for what they called collectively "givers of life.*' They set out from Egypt and reached almost everywhere. There was no civilization before Egypt, at least no civilization that was not derived from Egypt. Elliot Smith immediately crossed swords with ethnologists in
cannot
fafl

to

.

.

.

7

America because to him the Central American civilizations were certainly derived from Egypt. Everything started in Egypt everything. When he was once asked what was taking place in the cultural development of the world when Egypt was allegedly laying the foundations of civilization, he answered at once, "Nothing."
Peny's

comment on

this statement

is

flabbergasting

in its nalvet6

and ignorance. 'The accumulation of

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
fresh evidence during the twenty-odd years that have since elapsed has tended to confirm the essential ac-

curacy of what was then an astonishing generalization/' Those are Perry's very words; at least we can be in agreement with the phrase "astonishing generalization/
7

We do not want to spend too long in discussing the
authors of this pan-Egyptian hyperdiffusion theory.

Smith and Perry really abandoned any pretense method. They did not evaluate the evidence and arrive at a theory. Elliot Smith had been swept away by Egypt, he had been convinced by mummies and megaliths, his theory was formed and everything was squeezed into this theory circumstances of time, place, and function were brushed aside with airy condescension. Lowie is not a whit too sharp, not an iota too cruel when he says of the astonishing development of the Elliot Smith theories: "Here there is no humble
Elliot

at scientific

quest of the truth, no patient scrutiny of attempt to understand sincere criticism.

difficulties,

no
re-

Vehement

iteration takes the place of argument . . . Everything is grist for his mil], everything is either black or white.
facts hence, right or

... In physical anthropology Elliot Smith controls the wrong his judgments command in while ethnography his crass ignorance respect

darkens counsel." 2
refers to

Nor

is

Lowie too severe when he

"the unfathomable ignorance of elementary

s ethnography" displayed by Elliot Smith and Peny. In a lecture on Conversion in Science which Elliot Smith gave in 1928 at the Imperial College of Science it was the Huxley Memorial Lecture he said this: "The set attitude of mind of a scholar may become
*

The

History of Ethnological Theory, 60-1.

s

Ibid., 166.

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
almost indistinguishable from a delusion." He was not, quite naturally, thinking of himself when he wrote this
sentence, but this pened to him. He
is

had acquired a

unfortunately just what had hapset attitude of mind
all culture,

with regard to the Egyptian origin of

and

it

had become a

delusion.
it is

To

us at the present day
this

a distraction to look

back at

but its pan-Egyptian much more than an amusing sidelight on the development of ideas of prehistory. For the Elliot
diffusionist delusion

significance is

Smith-Peny school were not alone in their search for a simple all-embracing solution. Elliot Smith died in 1937. Two years later Lord Raglan published his How Came Civilization? Raglan is still with us and writing but he corresponds in his essential philosophical basis with Elliot Smith and Perry. He does not believe in the possibility of inventions being made twice. Let us quote
his views:

No

known

invention, discovery, custom, belief, or even story is for certain to have originated in two separate cultures. . . . The natural state of man is a state of low

savagery

whenever he

towards that state he always tends to revert is not checked, or forced in the opposite direction, by that unexplained, but highly artificial localized and spasmodic process which we know as the progress of civilization. . . . Savages never invent or discover
.
. .

anything
ventions

.

.

.

many

of the principal discoveries
civilization is

and

in-

based can be traced with considerable probability to an area with its focus near the head of the Persian Gulf, and such evidence as there is suggests that they were made by ingenious priests as a means of facilitating the performance of

upon which our

religious ritual.
*

4

LORD RAGLAN, How Came Civilization? ( 1939) ,

1 5, 38.

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
Lord Raglan allows a great

11 J

civilizing process to take place in the sixteenth century AJ>. but this is only the

second time in man's whole history, and his general conclusion remains that "civilization then, far from being a process that keeps going on everywhere, is really an event which has only happened twice." 5 Raglan has

done little more than substitute Sumeria for Egypt, and this is also what Heine-Geldem has done, and nervously realizes he has done, in the number of Diogenes devoted to the work of Toynbee.

Now why does

the world tolerate this academic rub-

bish from people like Elliot Smith, Perry, and Raglan? There are many reasons. First there is a deep-seated
desire for a simple

answer to complicated problems.

6

That

is why the earlier pie-archaeological prehistorians clutched at the Trojans, the Phoenicians, the Lost Tribes of Israel, the Druids, and, let us particularly not The Anforget in this present context, the Egyptians.

Anatomy
I

cient Egyptians as the saviors of the world were invented long before Elliot Smith was made Professor of in Cairo. And this simplistic easy solution to

something which people hanker after. doubt that the cult of Atlantis at the present day is a part of this, and the sale of books explainvanished island ing how all civilization came from the
prehistory
is still

have

little

of Atlantis, or Mu, or Lake Titicaca, or Heligoland is a proof of it. These theories are stifl widely canvassed at the present day and the books dealing with them sell and well, and one is always being asked about Atlantis Titicaca just as one is asked about Phoenicians and

the Lost Tribes of
*

Israel.

On
son

Ibid., 182. this see

R. CBAWSHAY WILLIAMS, The Comforts of Umea-

Il6
that
is

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
by

It is often said

we should not concern

professional archaeological scholars ourselves unduly with what

one aspect of the rather large lunatic of prehistory, that we have far better things to do fringe advancing the true path of knowledge and accumulating by archaeological means the basic facts to be
after all only

out of prehistory, and that most of these extraorbooks dinary giving single origins to man's civilization in one great movement or event or spread of cultureheroes are beneath contempt There is much in this, but here we are concerned with the ideas people have or want to have about prehistory, and there is no doubt
distilled

to have the simple soluan Elliot Smith, a Raglan, a Bellamy, or a Spanuth. This is not merely because, as I have said, there seems a deep-seated desire for a simple all-embracing explanation but because the gradual elaboration and complication of the archaeological record has begun to bewilder people. It was all right in Victorian times

that

many have had and want

tions of

in

when you could read Lubbock's Prehistoric Times or Edwardian times when you read Rice Holmes's Ancient Britain and the Invasions of Julius Caesar, all right when the prehistoric past of man seemed an easily

assimilable tale of Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Early Iron Age, but not all right when you began

to read the complicated story which prehistorians offer at the present day with its extraordinarily complicated sequences of cultures in different areas. Look for ex-

ample at any chart at the end of Chflde's Dawn of European Civilization or of Christopher Hawkes's Prehistoric Foundations of Europe, at lie chart at the end
of Stuart Piggott's Neolithic Cultures of the British IsZes, and you may well be pardoned if you recoil from

the complicated archaeological constructs which seem

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION

llj

to have replaced the simple succession which the Victorians so gladly elaborated into the not so

complicated

succession advocated
set

and which was out by MacCurdy in his Human Origins and
Mortillet

by de

Burkitt in his Prehistory.
It is then we suggest, as part of a desire for a simple all-embracing solution, and as part of a reaction from the complexity of the archaeological record, that we should look at the distractions of this hyperdiffusionism

which beset the fringes of our Buckland to Mr. Bellamy.
It

discipline

from Miss
lies in

needs emphasizing here that the error

the

simplistic hyperdiffusion of the one-center school, just as the Victorian unilinear system of cultural evolution

was an error. Neither diffusion nor evolution itself as an explanation of cultural change is an error; the error
has lain in the extravagant interpretation of cultural change in terms of only one of these explanations and
that taken to obsessional extremes. In the
history which diffusion was

was coming into being

new prein the twenties

the accepted explanation of cultural

change in archaeology. Tlie man who was perhaps most responsible for slowly and surely putting across a modified diffusionism was Gordon Chflde in his Dawn of

European

Civilization

(1925), his

Danube

in Pre-

history (1929), and his Bronze Age (1930). In these books we see developing the climate of the new prehis-

tory which carefully builds up the details of the succession of cultures in each area and sees cultures or

elements of cultures spreading from one area to another. This diffusionism is not open to the charges leveled and very correctly at the hyperdiffusionist
school,
tific

namely that

it

neglected

all

semblance of scien-

methods.

Il8
In our

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY own modern prehistory the Childe and

Chflde-

derivative archaeologists are working in the best traditions of scientific method. Before two cultural objects

or traditions gre compared it is made certain that they are functionally and formally identical. It is one of the
great confusions of the Elliot Smith-Perry school of hyperdiffusion that they never made sure that the objects

they were comparing were functionally and formally identical; they rashly compared the Pyramids of

Egypt with the Pyramids of Central America, monuments which are admittedly superficially identical,
without realizing that while the Egyptian pyramids were tombs, the American pyramids were great temple platforms on the top of which religious rites were performed. The difEusionists of the new prehistory do not
these mistakes; they compare only cultural feawhich are formally and functionally identical and only derive the one from the other if such a historical process can be shown to be chronologically, geographically, and historically possible. Let me take as an example of the modified Childe diffusionism of the twenties, which had become standard archaeological theory in the thirties and forties, the megalithic tombs of Western Europe. In the nineteenth century the likenesses between megalithic tombs from Denmark and the Orkneys to Iberia and the Mediterranean were appreciated, but there then seemed only one of two possible explanations for these likenesses. (Plate V.) The first was that these monuments had
tures

make

come

into existence naturally in different areas as part

The second view was that there was a great megalithic master race
of the natural cultural evolution of man.

which spread from one center Denmark iteelf was sometimes canvassed, and at other times it was some

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
unspecified area in the east

119 Mediterraneanindeed at

We have already seen how Elliot Smith and Peny took over this idea of a megalithic race which became part of their pan-Egyptian colonial movement But when one gets down to detailed analysis of the spread of megalithic tombs in the western Mediterranean and Western Europe, one sees that no one facile
tural spread.

the present day the general view is to talk in fairly vague terms of an Aegean or Minoan-Mycenaean cul-

explanation will

suffice.

In the

first

place megaliths

do not represent a single unitary movement but contacts along the same routes over many centuries. Many scholars at the present day would date the first passage graves of Ireland and Brittany to the middle of the third millennium B.C.7 but it is equally clear to many

New Grange and spirals lozenges on the blocking slabs at Castelluccio in Sicily, the Hal Tarrien slabs in Malta, and the designs on the shaftgraves at Mycenae all evidence of contact across Euwho look at the
that
it

decorated entrance slab at

must be compared with the

rope in the sixteenth or fifteenth centuiy B.C. Secondly, even if one allows initial movements of people with a basic tomb type and a basic custom of collective burial, that basic tomb type is probably a rock-cut tomb; megalithic architecture may have arisen independently in the west Mediterranean in several places,

Malta

for instance

and southern Spain and southern

types in these separate areas developed often along parallel lines. There has been in recent years an even greater revo-

France.

Tomb

lution in the generally accepted modified Chflde diffuT

A

for

date of 3000 B.C. has been suggested on Carbon-i* analysis a passage grave in Brittany by F. R. Giot (see Antiquity,

120

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

sionism. Northern antiquaries have for a long time
classified the megalithic tombs of Denmark, Sweden, and Germany into three successive groups: first, the

das or dysse usually confusingly translated into English as "dolmen" a word used in English in a very wide
variety of ways; secondly the passage grave; the long stone cist. while at first it

Now

and thirdly was argued

that these three stages represented a simple evolutionary sequence in Northern Europe, the later diffusionist view was that each stage represented a movement from some part of Western Europe and the west Medlast stage, characterized by the long was thought, for instance, to have spread from the Paris basin somewhere between 1600 and 1400 B.C. and this is still a possibility; the second stage, characterized by passage graves, was, and indeed still

iterranean.

The

stone

cists,

is,

seen as part of the spread of passage graves in

Western Europe between 2500 and 1500 B.C. The first stage, that characterized by dosctr, dysser, or dolmens, was less easily explained but there were vague parallels to these monuments in Western Europevarious archaeologists pointed hopefully, if a little uncertainly, at the polygonal dolmens of Portugal and the
lar

rectangu-

dolmens of the Pyrenean

area.

But now

as the result

of detailed researches by Professor Becker of Copenhagen we see the tombs of this first stage as something quite different, as the translation into megalithic architecture of earth graves that existed in Northern

Europe

more, Professor Becker reminds us that these first-stage megalithic tombs are not collective tombs at all and never contained more than a few
before;
is

what

burials. It

now looks as though we must accept, the independent origin of some megalithic architecture in
Denmark.

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION 121 we are entering on a new mid-twenVery gradually
tieth-century stage in our ideas of the interpretation of prehistoric change: indeed after the distractions of the

and the fairly generally accepted reasonable doctrine of the modified diffusionists we are
hyperdiffusionists

back to one of the Victorian positions when, said Lowie, as I have already quoted, "evolution ... lay

down amicably
There
is

beside Diffusion."

now, then, a very considerable change going which people are beginning to have and about nature of cultural spread and change the express in prehistory. Yet some would say that while we may be forced to modify our views in detail on some points, the over-all picture is the same. The over-all picture

on

in the view

would appear to be something like this: that the elements of a higher food-producing civilization came into existence in the Near East in and around what Breasted called the Fertile Crescent, and that the elements of
this culture-complex spread all over the world,

not of

course diffused by a master race, but by varying peoples in varying stages. Perhaps there were two great stages,
lithic

the earliest of which was called by Chflde the NeoRevolution of, perhaps, ten thousand years ago,

and the second the Urban Revolution of

five thousand communities literate urban which produced years ago, in Egypt and Mesopotamia. This was the picture

painted in Gordon Chflde's What Happened in History? and Man Makes Himself, and in the series of books written by H. J. E. Peake and H. J. Fleure
called THE CORRIDORS OF TIME. The first volume of THE CORRIDORS OF TIME was published under the title Apes and Men in 1927, and the tenth and last volume, called Times and Places, in 1956; Peake had himself died in 1946. Now Peake and Fleure were not Elliot

122

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

Smith-Perry diffusionists; indeed Peake used to say with a twinkle that he found it difficult to look at the world through a Penyscope. But the Peake and Fleure
books, on which

my

generation of archaeologists was

brought up, admirably demonstrate the modified Chflde diflfusionism of the twenties and thirties. Let me quote from the preface to the last volume,

Times and
It

Places.

has been the writers' belief in compiling the Corridors

that south-west Asia was the region in

which

the great step forward from dependence

man made on hunting and

collecting to food-production by cereal cultivation; and to this the keeping of domestic animals was soon added.

small attempts at cultivation begun independently elsewhere, and there were probably several more or less independent beginnings of the

While there may have been

domestication of animals, the spread of food-production from south-west Asia and Egypt and its consequences

remain major features of the story of mankind.

Now this is very true, but how major is another story which Peake and Fleure omit entirely from their tenvolume essay down the corridors of time, and this omission is deliberate and planned. "The Americas," they write, "with their largely distinct problems have not been included in the survey." But the problem of prehistory is the problem of the prehistory of man, not the prehistory of the Old World. find the same refusal to study the American evidence in Gordon Chflde's What Happened in History? Yet the story of

We

New World cultural origins is of paramount importance
to our study of

Old World cultural origins. The Western World learned about the Americas for the first time in 1492, when Christopher Columbus discovered America when looking for the Indies. The sub-

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
sequent explorers of Central America "succeeded in
doing," to quote Carleton Coon's words, "something every archaeologist dreams of, which is to step back-

wards in time

Age

they marched into an Early Metal civilization comparable in many respects with that
.

.

.

of Egypt in late Predynastic or early Dynastic times, and that of earliest Sumeria." 8 Since then historians

and

civilization

archaeologists have wanted to find out how this came into existence and what relation it

bore to the civilizations of the ancient world.

The

Spanish found themselves in the New World face to face with the Aztecs of Mexico who met them in battle with composite weapons of obsidian blades set in grooved wood, and the Mayas of Yucatan, Guatemala, and Honduras who built elaborate temples and pyramids and who had no metal at all except a few gold and copper ornaments, and the Incas of Peru who had
complicated networks of roads like the Roman roads, suspension bridges of rope, and domesticated animals
the llama, the alpaca, and the guinea pig. All these
native American civilizations Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas were based on agriculture. And both the Aztecs and Mayas, as well as other American Indians in Mexico, could write; they had a pictogiaphic script which they wrote in deerskin books. How had all this come about? Of course Christopher Columbus was not the first European to visit America. Leif Ericsson got to Greenland and Vinland in AJD.

three

1001. It is not suggested that Leif Ericsson introduced the elements of higher civilization to America, but it has been the fashion to suggest that someone did do this, and, of course, particularly the fashion by those

who
*

could not bring themselves to believe that anyS.

CARLETON

COON, The Story of

Man

(1955), 344.

124

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

thing could be invented or discovered on more than one occasion. While there has been a fashion, there has been no agreement on who brought (or was thought

the higher civilization to America. To some they were Phoenicians or the Lost Tribes of Israel, to others Welshmen like Madoc or Irishmen
to have brought)

Brandon, to others Negroes from Africa, Japanese, Polynesians, or people from the supposed and supposedly sunken continents of Atlantis, Lemuria, or Mu or of course if you were looking at prehistory through a Perryscope, it was brought by the ancient
like St.

Egyptians themselves. It is really the old problem that we discussed in our first lecture; we are back in the
legendary epoch of prehistoric research.

but in studying American cultural origins we are engaged in what is almost a controlled laboratory experiment. That is why American prehistory is so important to the prehistorian working in Eu-

That may be

so,

are now in a rope or the Near East or India. American to answers to pregive objective position

We

on dendroon latterly chronological Carbon-i4 analysis. The Carbon-i4 dates in the Bat Cave in New Mexico show that American Indians were growing maize by 4000 B.C. Further comparative analysis and
historic

chronology

answers based

first

researches

but

study shows that almost every cultural element in the New World can be explained as of purely local growth.

There are

still some puzzles the gourd, cotton, the sweet potato, and Indian com are among them but on the whole the story as it looks at this moment is that about 10,000 B.C. man came to America, probably across a dry Bering Straits, and that by 5000 B.C. all of

the

New World
By 4000

pied.

B.C. agriculture

except the Eskimo country was occuhad begun in the New

I2J due course these early agricultural communities developed into the Urban Civilizations of Central America; and at the moment it looks as though this development happened in America without any contact of a serious nature from abroad. It was in fact

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION
in

World and

a tale of independent cultural evolution. If this was so in America, we now ask, why not elsewhere in the Old World? Rice cultivation probably

developed independently in south China when wheat and barley were being cultivated in the Near East and

maize in America. Indeed it is probably true that we have been creating our own difficulties to a certain extent, and inventing the problems of diffusion versus

by conceptualizing certain ideas. Agriare two such ideas; we talk about the origins of "agriculture" and discuss whether "it" started in the Near East and spread from there to China, India, and America when all the time what we should be talking about is the discoveiy of the cultivation of wheat and barley in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq, of rice in eastern India and south China, and of maize and squash in Central America. We have created our
culture

local evolution

and

civilization

own problems by grouping together all these material advances in culture under one word "agriculture." And it is to a certain extent the same with "civilization." describe civilizations in Egypt, Sumeria, the Indus

We
was

came

Valley, China, and Central America and ask how they into existence, flourished, and decayed, and what
their genetic

interrelationship
all

without perhaps

realizing that because
cities

and a high

skill

these societies had writing and in metal-working they are not

necessarily connected. It would seem, then, that we have traveled a long way from the earlier diffusionists to our present very

126

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

its recognition of the real existence of independent evolution; perhaps that long way had to involve the distractions of the hyperdiffu-

modified diffusionism with

sionists. I said in

the previous lectures, that the de-

velopment of the prehistoric record had brought us to a stage where we were studying the development of cultures in time and space, that we were studying a
gaily colored layer cake.

The

first

concern of prehistoric

archaeology was the study of the chronological and spatial position of these layers. It was also, secondarily,
tions

the study of their interrelations if the time-space posipermitted such interrelationships; this study,

which we can and its complex mechanics, is one we should undertake without any preconceived ideas of diffusion and independent invenwhich
after

aH

is

the only

way

in

begin to understand cultural change

tion.

We

should approach this study of cultural origins

and change at tie present day with the lessons of American prehistory very much in mind, for here it does seem that man developed from the Mesolithic food-gathering savages of the end of the Ice Age through to the literate urban communities of Central America
without significant contacts observable in the archaeological record from the Old World of Europe and
Africa,

the other. If there

on the one hand, or Asia and Indonesia, on is one lesson more than any other
is

which mid-twentietib-century research

forcibly inject-

ing into our idea of prehistory it is that of the independent development of prehistoric American culture.

The news
American

of the early dating by Carbon-i4 of tie first agricultural communities has come like a

tremendous blast of cold wind blowing

down

the corn-

dors of

DIFFUSION AND DISTRACTION I2J time where walked scholars who seemed to
fixed picture of

have arrived at a
cultural

world prehistory and

origins in terms of Revolutions in the Near East

Neolithic and

Urban

VI

The

Idea of Prehistory in

the Study of Language and Race,

and in

Politics

We

have seen

existence as a

how prehistoric archaeology came into new perspective of the human past as

an extension backward of ancient history and forward of geology and how by the second quarter of the twentieth century prehistory had developed its own
expertise, both in methods and results. The main result seemed to be a gaily colored layer or Neapolitan

We have also seen that the first task of the prehistorian seemed to be the listing and definition of these cultures, and his second the study of the nature of their interrelations. I hope we have seen, too, that, as the
twentieth century advanced, no simple explanation in terms of independent cultural evolution or of diffusion
unilaterally from one center was really acceptable, but what was and is acceptable is the notion that the de-

cake which changed as one turned the cake round. This was the complicated space-time cataloguing of cultures.

velopment of cultures in prehistory (as in historic
128

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS
times)
is

129

a complicated process in which independent evolutionary forces and outside influences both play

important parts. It was not surprising that, as prehistoric archaeology developed, scholars should begin to say that it seemed
to be becoming an arid discipline of cultural listing,

or a sort of archaeological cultural chess. The question was asked, Was the prehistoric archaeologist going to tell us no more about the prehistoric past than the
lateral

and

vertical

moves on a three-dimensional

going to get out of research in prehistory a catalogue of changes in material culture? These questions were asked
all

chessboard?

Was

we were

particularly

sharply by archaeologists interested in the findings of

and

neighboring disciplines like geography, anthropology, history, and from the human geographers, anthro-

pologists,

and

historians themselves interested in this

aspect of the human past. There were also the language scholars, the linguistic paleontologists, and others who were themselves concerned in certain aspects of very
early

human

history.
first

Let us take

the linguists and the physical an-

thropologists; they were concerned with the facts of language and race and were asking how their conjectural history of language and race fitted in to the record

of prehistory, and also what new and definitive answers could prehistory give about the origins of language

and

race.

language is a cultural feature of man, but it becomes only apprehended by the archaeologist who is studying the material culture of man, when it becomes material, i.e., when it is written down on coins,
stones, or books.
historic times

Now

We

the times

are here concerned with prewhen there was no writing

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 130 on coins, stone, and books: we deal with preliterate times, so that one might say that, ipso facto, the prehistorian cannot tell anything about the spread and diffusion of languages. The prehistorian cannot answer you when you say, "\\Tien was the Celtic language introduced into Great Britain?" Or, more specifically,
"Is it true that the Q-Celtic languages
in Irish, Scots Gaelic,

now

surviving

and Manx were introduced into

the British Isles before (or long before) the P-Celtic languages which survive in Welsh and Breton, and survived until recently in Cornish?"
It is

prehistorians

unfortunately not quite so simple as that. If as we could wash our hands of linguistic

equations and problems we would be happier: if we could just say, well, no language survives from any prehistoric culture so we can tell you nothing, all would

be

well. As it is we cannot do this. The great family of languages variously referred to as the Aryan, IndoEuropean, or IndoGermanic languages came into ex-

somewhere between Eastern Europe and the Himalaya, somewhere north of the Turkish-ArmenianIranian mountain barrier, perhaps on the plains of
istence

Hungary, the Ukraine, or Turkestan.
this basic Indo-European language

The

and

its

speakers of derivative

languages, like Sanskrit, Celtic, Slav, Greek, Latin, and the rest of them, spread out from this area all over Europe and southwest Asia and into India, where

Aryan-speaking peoples (here the noble caste actually called themselves Aiyas) overran and destroyed the urban Bronze Age literate civilization of Harappa and

Mohenjo-Daro.
culture of these

It is

often argued that the material

Aryan speakers ought to be identifiable and that we should be able to say of a collection of

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS
tools

and weapons, here are the material remains of

the Aryans.
is a great difficulty here. An invasion of peoseen in a sudden change in the material culture as ple of a region does not necessarily betoken a change in

There

the language spoken. The reverse is often true: a new language may be introduced into a country and there is no apparent evidence for the appearance of new

people as shown by

archaeological record.

new material cultural traits in the The Norman Conquest of Eng-

land and Wales, on the one hand, and the conquest of Brittany in the fifth to seventh centuries AJX by
settlers

proofs of these statements.

from southwest England and Wales are good do not speak Norman-

We

although there is plenty of evidence of the material culture of the archaeological Normans in England; the Breton language is a version

French

in

England

of
in

Old Welsh

or

Old

British

but there
fifth-

the material culture of

is hardly a trace to seventh-century

Brittany of the arrival of these new speakers from Britain. It is very difficult to argue correlations for

invading cultures in linguistic terms and the archaeologists who say that the Beaker Folk spoke Q-Celtic or the Late Bronze Age invaders of Britain spoke P-

Cdtic are extending

facts possibilities into

and
is

treating

very tentative hypotheses as proven.

But do not think that what

I

am

saying

a counsel

of despair. Let us look at the Iberian peninsula. Here at the time of the Roman conquest were tribes, mainly in the north and northwest, who spoke Celtic lanmust have come into Iberia from guages; these people outside France, and if there is to be an archaeological

component

to these people

it

cannot be any people

132

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
Age

before the um-field invaders of the late Bronze

and early Iron Age people who came into Spain between 850 and 600 B.C. and the distribution of whose
material remains agrees quite well with that of the Celtic place-names and Celtic tribes of Spain, Here in Iberia is a legitimate and valuable correlation that can

be made between the archaeological invasions of the
student of languages. prehistorian and the facts of the can in Spain go a little further. Here there exists a languageBasque unlike any other in Europe; it

We

must have been there before the

arrival of

the Indo-

European speakers who If this was so 7 and it is difficult to argue any other case, then Basque must be the survival of a Bronze Age canlanguage spoken in Spain and south France. not is it not go any further than this but impossible that Basque was the language of some of the NeolithicChalcolithic tomb builders of southwest France and north Spain in the early second millennium B.C. We cannot really go so far as this, and indeed seldom can we go so far as we have done in Spain.
introduced Celtic into Iberia.

We

We

cannot for example say who introduced the Q-Celtic the language into Ireland or who really introduced

Greek language into Greece or the Italic tongues into one of the frustrations Italy. This is quite naturally of one the of prehistory very many frustrations or should one say that it is one of the defining limitations
of prehistory?

The same
gist is

sort of

problem

is

deal with the problems of race.

found when we come to Race to the anthropolo-

common

a group of people with physical characteristics in inherited physical characteristics that is

and though we may not agree with this or that classification of race, we do not, without any training in the

LANGUAGE, RACE, AXD POLITICS

133

mysteries of physical anthropology, have any difficult}' in distinguishing the Nordic type with its tall stature, blue eyes, fair hair, and fair skin, from the Bushman

with his kink\

7

hair,

black skin, short stature, and

stea-

topygia. Any ordinary political trained in measuring heads and working out cephalic indexes has no difficult}' in drawing a Negro and a Chi-

cartoonist quite un-

nese as different racial portraits. The various races of man developed in the last few thousand years, and it
is

reasonable to suppose that in the past, that is to say in the remote prehistoric past, when human groups

were not in such close contact with each other as in later phases of history and were mating from the same sort of stocks, geographical groups of people were more
pure than they are at the present day. If this is so then, it has been argued, cannot the cultures of the of reality prehistorians be given some more semblance of the a physical appearance of the description by
racially

in the earlier phases of prehistory we equate physical types with cultural groups? Can not say that the so-called warrior cultures of Northern who buried their dead in single

people?

Can we not

Europe^the people

of the graves with battle axes in the second quarter second m3Iennium B.C. were created by people who

belonged to the Nordic type? There is inherently here a methodological difficult}', and an obvious one like that involved in the tracing

backwards of language groups. It is that the fleshy parts of our prehistoric ancestors do not survive; the hair, so much of racial classification eyes, and skin on which
is

based and by which

we

racial types, do not survive. in special clues: the bodies

ourselves so easily describe Very rarely are we given

the Danish peat-bogs like Tollund preserve for us the oldest examples of flesh

134

THE IDEA OF

in prehistoiy (Plate VI), and the older bodies from the Danish tree-coffins of the Bronze Age are also of

some value

in determining racial types. also representations of human beings in us little in the way early art (Plate VII) but they give we come to the on until to of racial characteristics go

There are

Egyptians who in the nineteenth dynasty decorated the walls of the royal tombs with representations of the four races of mankind, namely the Egyptians themthey painted red, the Asiatics whom they painted yellow, the Southerners or Negroes whom they a fourth type, the naturally represented black; and
selves

whom

Libyans, Westerners, or Northerners, whom they represented as white with blue eyes and fair beards. Even
this information, imprecise

though

it is,

goes back only

three thousand years. A second factor which

vitally affects

we make to
aspects of

take man's

racial history

any attempt back and to equate
is

it

with archaeologically derived facts

that

it is not only the fleshy parts that do not survive; sometimes nothing survives at all. Whole skeletonsbone as well as the mantle of flesh may disappear in

acid
eral

soils,

and the moment cremation became a gen-

custom, as it was, for example, extensively in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages in Britain, we were left

with nothing at all to assist our study of the physical remains of man except a heap of ashes. It is, then, not really possible to say a great deal about the physical

man, but we can make a few useful generalizations. The type of person normally found in megalithic tombs in Northwestern Europe, for example, has a skeleton not far removed from that standtypes of early

ard in the so-called Mediterranean race. This

is

not a

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS 135 in fact we consider that when most surprising reality,
of the builders of these tombs spread up into Northem and Northwestern Europe from the Mediterra-

not quite

far as we can go; and yet, perhaps, the population of Ireland, for example, is probably most extensively derived from that of the

nean. This

may be as

and on the

megalithic builders and it is tempting on this ground identity of the megalithic builders skeletally

with the present-day Mediterranean race to see their bones clotted with a sallow skin, their eye-sockets filled with dark eyes, and the tops of their long heads covered with black hair.
existence of this Mediterranean type in our Neoand Chalcolithic communities of megalithic and nonmegalithic types in the British Isles is quite beyond dispute and it contrasts very markedly with the Beaker type found in inhumed single graves of the Early Bronze

The

lithic

Age

in Britain

tall,

strongly built types with robust,

can go in correlating the facts of archaein and physical anthropology; no further than ology the correlation of facts of archaeology and linguistic
history .

squarish faces. Thus far we

And,

as

we

think about

it,

we

see that it

is

not

really very

far.

Race, language, and

well

know

in the

modem

fying

and grouping men.

culture are, as we world, separate ways of classiThe Jews, for example, were

until recently a detribalized nation bound together at least in part by religious ties; they were a cultural unit

not necessarily speaking the same language though they preserved Hebrew as a liturgical language, and Hebrew in a much modified form in Judeo-German or

and not necessarily belonging to the same race although people in Western Europe, whose only acYiddish

136

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

quaintance with the racial types of the Middle East was through seeing Jews, thought they did form a racial group. When we see, as in this example of the Jews,
very clearly it is impossible to equate racial, linin modern times when gustic, and cultural groupings we have very full documentation to assist us, we see it
is

how

when we have no

a hopeless task to try to do it in prehistoric times written sources, when we have to

judge language facts by later distributions of placenames, and our physical types are often skeletons or jars of ashes from funeral pyres. The idea of prehistory which we must now have with
regard to the early spread of races
essentially, except in a our ideas of cultures.

and languages must few rare cases, be separated from We must alas, for the most part,

keep the builders and bearers of our prehistoric cultures speechless and physically neutral. This may seem to you an unsatisfying conclusion. And so it is but then

much

of our prehistory

is

unsatisfying

and

difficult,

can appreciate tantalizingly of limitations the this and accept prehistory along with is But what its excitements. good enough for you and me this hard scholarly doctrine was not good enough for the politicians and propagandists who, in the last facts or apparent quarter-century, have been using the

meager and sketchy.

We

facts of prehistory to confuse the public. They have done this because the facts could so easily

be grafted on to the apparent
racism of course
is

facts of racism.

Now

something very different from race. To quote the late Ruth Benedict's neat statement on racism: "Racism is not, like race, a subject the content of which can be scientifically investigated. It is like a
religion,

a belief that can be studied only

historically.

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS

137

Like any belief that goes beyond scientific knowledge it can be judged only by its fruits and by its votaries

and its ulterior purposes." * Racism is the dogma that one race or one ethnic group for that matter is superior, other races or groups inferior, and that indeed the superiority and inferiority is something congenital, something to which people are condemned or blessed by nature. It is of course a comforting and comfortable doctrine for those said to be the superiors. It is, also of course, entirely wrong; it is a form of racial modern us remember vividly how racism superstition. Most of was made a principal basis of German policy. But all
this started long before

Nazi

politics.
is

The

classic

statement of racism

that of

Comte de

Gobineau,
Essay on

who between 1853 and
tiie

lS 57 TOOte

^

Inequality of

Human

Races. Gobineau

was a Frenchman and he was
ideas of Boulainvilliers

really

developing the
Boulainvilliers

the

Comte de

the survivors argued that the nobles of France, of the feudal aristocracy, were the remains of the Gerthe Teutonic barbarians who had overrun the

who

mani,

was of Empire, while the populace of France different racial clay. The populace were the old a quite Gallo-Roman stock of France; racially Mediterranean

Roman

Celts. They were, according to Bouto racial inferiority as the Franks destined lainvilliers, were to racial superiority. The Comte de Gobineau and I always feel that it is not insignificant that these doctrines were being developed by two members of what was supposed to be the racially superior element

and

linguistically

in France

ideas. He taught developed Boulainvflliers's not that the hope of the world, merely the hope of
i

RUTH BENEDICT, Race and Racism

(1942), 131.

138

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

France, lay, and indeed always had lain, with the fairhaired Teutons; and he was now calling these people

Aryans. It was the current fashion to call them this, and what he meant, of course, though imprecisely, was

what physical anthropologists would, at the present day, call the Nordic race.
should re-emphasize here that there is nothing imprecise and nothing wrong in the idea of the Aryans; it is a precise linguistic term, in origin and in
Perhaps
I

present usage linguistic. It is the extension of this linguistic term to include racial characteristics those of

the Nordic race

that was the

first

confusion;

and the

second that these Aryan-Nordics were superior, were the leaders of the world. It was not meant to be a succession of confusions in the Comte de Gobineau's
writings; far

confusions; he these matters.

from it. He was not engaged in deliberate was merely unable to think straight about But it was meant to be a confusion by the time it became an accepted part of Nazi policy, because its progenitors and advocates did not want to think straight, nor want their deluded followers to think straight; and after all nobody who bothered to analyze the Nazi-superiority-Aiyan-Nordic myth and then to think of the fair-haired Teutons could come to
any
flattering conclusions

about the

racial affinities of

many
The

of the

German

political leaders

from Hitler

downwards.
really interesting thing
is

about the

Comte de

Gobineau

that he was not preaching a nationalist

doctrine of racialist prehistory. His

theme was interin was national, scope. He dedicated his pan-European Human Races to George the on Essay Inequality of of Hanover, and this is what he wrote himself about the

V

whole problem:

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS
Gradually
I

139

have become convinced that race over-

key to

other problems in history, that it holds the all, and that the inequality of people from whose fusion a people is formed is enough to explain the

shadows

all

them

whole course of

its destiny. I convinced myself at last that everything great, noble, and fruitful in the works of man on this earth in science, art, and civilization derives

to one family single starting point; it belongs have of which branches different the reigned in alone, all the civilized countries of the universe.

from a

Gobineau was,

as

indeed

all

out-and-out racialists

must be, a hyperdiffupreaching about a Master Race we like the in sionist hyperdiffusionists many ways Miss as such Buckland, last in the lecture, spoke about
Sir

Grafton Elliot Smith, W. J. Perry, and Lord demanded Raglan. But the cultural hyperdiffusionists Race. He Master a was Gobineau's a master
people;

had divided the world into the Whites, Yellows, and
were the only Blacks; his "fair-haired Teuton-Aryans" and he was thereRace White the of representatives of Central and Eastthe fore forced to
classify

Alpines

em

Europe

as Yellow, or of

Mediterraneans

as

of

Yellow extraction, and the Black extraction! Of course

in the early 18505 before the well before The of Origin of Species, and publication scientific of anthropology the development physical with its accurate measurements and classifications. Gobineau was a Frenchman but the Germans were

Gobineau was writing

and popularized his writings in Germany. The Gobineau Vereinigung was founded in 1894: and five son-in-law Houston Stewart Chamyears later Wagner's
lent berlain published his

not slow to adopt his racial views, or a modification them. Richard Wagner found Gobineau's work excel-

of

The Foundations

of the Nine-

140
at

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

teenth Century. It was actually published in German Munich that year; the English translation appeared

These two large volumes made Gobinism a an important cult in Germany. The Kaiser read them aloud to his sons, had them distributed to officers of the army, and directed that they should be displayed in bookshops and in public libraries throughout Germany. Chamberlain's book went through edition after edition and without any doubt whatsoever became part of the underlying unconscious assumpin 1911. cult and
tions of the

German

nation

or of a large part of

it.

Houston Chamberlain had to operate and propagate his racialist doctrines at a time when a great deal was becoming known about physical anthropology, and he could not go on insisting that the Master Race was one of tall, blonde, fair-skinned, blue-eyed giants. So they were just called Teutons, but they were not Teutons in the strict sense of people who spoke a Teutonic language: there were Celts and Slavs also in this "single pure stock" which were the original great ones, the really chosen people: but some were brunette and broadheaded and others blonde dolichocephalics. But as his doctrines were accepted and developed there was a steady shift away from even a prejudiced and confused physical anthropology ; in the end it was all a mystique z mystique of the Great German Race versus the rest and particularly against the Jews, that, following Houston Chamberlain, were confusingly called Semites. Now it is true that Hebrew is a Semitic language, but there are
7

We can see how far Houston Chamberlain had himself
gone towards
this racialist

many other Semitic languages, notably Arabic. The use of the phrase Semitic in a pejorative sense was part of the denigration of the Jews as anti-Master-Race people.

mystique when, for example,

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS
he
says:

141
his acts,

"Whoever

reveals himself

German by

whatever his genealogical tree, is a German/' and again, "One can very soon become a Jew ... it needs only to have frequent intercourse with Jews or to read Jewish
newspapers." Small wonder,
like this, that

when one reads ridiculous sentences though The Foundations of the Nine-

teenth Century was received with such signal honor in Germany it remains "among the most confused, pretentious and over-written books that racism has pro-

duced." 2 Small wonder, too, that the Nazis took over these ideals which the Kaiser had read aloud to his

absorbed it, and liked getting round of physical appearance in German leaders by the Chamberlain trick of "a German soul in a non-German body." How far we have got from if we begin talking about souls. physical appearance Even so there were difficulties; the German opposition
sons.

Mein Kampf

the obvious

difficulties

to Comunism meant that the Slavs had to be dropped out of the Master Race stock of the chosen people; and after the Rome-Berlin axis was invented, it too had to be given a racialist basis and the Mediterranean race

had to be looked at a

little more charitably, although a great deal of emphasis could be and was laid on the Germanness of northern Italy. Because I have deliberately taken the main develop-

ment of racialist theory from Gobineau

to Chamberlain

and Alfred Rosenberg, this must not be taken to mean that it was only the Germans who had this exaggerated racialist Master Race myth at the basis of their thought. It existed also in America, and the best and classic Madison Grant the example of American racialists was
sThese words
are those of

Ru&

Benedict in her Race and

142

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
in

1917 produced his remarkable book The Passing of the Great Race, The thesis of this book is a very simple one, and there is hardly any need to mention at this stage who the great race wasit was our old friend the Nordic Teuton leaders, and Madison

man who

Grant

said very outspokenly:
is

"The amount of Nordic
its

blood in each nation

a very fair measure of

strength in war and its standing in civilization." So far, so good, the Gobineau French and German racialists

might say, but as they read on through The Passing of the Great Race they had to exclaim "but no further," because Grant's thesis was that the Germans and French
of today were the descendants of the peasants, and that the Great Race of Nordic Teuton leaders had left

Europe and were now in America. Even in 1917 Madison Grant was prepared to insist uncritically that the majority of Americans were Nordic; he declared that that moment was the chance for America to capture
lost.

the glorious position of leadership which Europe had Hemy Fairfield Osbom, the doyen of American

archaeology and anthropology at that time, wrote a preface to Grant's book in which he said that what

America should do was to prevent "the gradual dying out among our people of those hereditary traits through which the principles of our religious, political or social foundations were laid down and to stop their insidious replacement by traits of less noble character." Other American racialist books were even more inept, preaching the patriotic duty of Nordic racial hygiene. had something of this kind, but the other way round, in England, where it became a denigration not a praising of the Nordic-Teutons. There were ancient historians who saw the Germans in 1914 "what they were fifteen centuries ago the barbarians who raided

We

143 our ancestors and destroyed the civilization of the Roman Empire." But no one was a patch in this matter on
the

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS

German

racialists,

who

harnessed prehistory to

and did so because they felt somehow that history must be or must be made to be on their side. "The one and only thing that matters
their racial-mad chariot

to us/' Heinrich Himmler is supposed to have said, "and the thing these people are paid for by the state,
is

to have ideas of history that strengthen our people in their national pride." And here of course prehistory,
little

where we really know so into its Germanic own.

and guess

so

much, came

In 1939 courses in prehistoric archaeology were given in no less than twenty-five German universities, and research was lavishly supported by the
archaeological Nazi State. Professor

Hermann

Schneider of the Uni-

year 1933 the history of the culture of Germany which gave to the Germanic element of all that is German a significance
previously unthought of.

in 1939 said this: "The versity of Tubingen writing witnessed the victory of an attitude towards

The best of what is German is found in pure form in early be must and Germanic Germanic times. Archaeological research thus found itself faced with the pleasant task of examining and of Germanic life and cusreconstructing the real essence toms." These were the words of a Professor at Tuthis much, how much more bingen; if a Professor alleged were politicians ready to employ racialism and derive from the prehistoric record. support for their doctrines Himmler said: "Prehistory is the doctrine of the eminence of the Germans at the
of prehistory.
It

dawn

of civilization."
political

Here we have naked and unashamed the

view

such a doctrine could might well be thought that

144

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

hardly be sustained for long even in Nazi political circles, merely by constant reiteration. But there were unfortunately not lacking prehistorians who would

supply necessary information for supporting these doctrines. The best or worst exponent of this political
idea of prehistory

was Gustaf Kossinna. His dates were 1858-1931: he began as a philologist and then turned to prehistory. In 1895 he set out his views on prehistory in a lecture at Cassel, In 1902 he was appointed Professor of
lin,

German

prehistory in the University of Ber-

and held

this post until

he died nearly

thirty years

later.

German

interest in the

German

back to the same time as the
interest in the British

first stirrings

national past dates of British

past Camden's Britannia was

published in 1587, and at the same time the same backlooking curiosity in a new nation state was operating in

Germany. In 1615 Philip Cluver (1580-1623) published a large book called Germarda Antigua: its aim was to assemble everything that existed in classical writers
about the ancient Germans. At this time the Germans were depicted as rude barbarians and also at this time as in England and France there was little or no effort to interpret the ancient Germans from a study of their
material remains. This

had to wait in Germany as in and France for the geological and antiquarian England

revolutions of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Actually two Germans at this time, Dannefl

and Lisch, seemed to have hit on the Three Age tem independently of the Danes.

sys-

The nineteenth century saw great development in German archaeology but; at first, in the field of classical

man

and Near-Eastern archaeology. A branch of the GerArchaeological Institute was set up in Athens in

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS

145

1875 and in that year excavations began at Olympia under Ernst Curtius. They occupied the six winters of
1875-80, cost $150,000, and the expenses of the last winter season were borne by the Emperor William.

from 1899 through to 1914, the Germans, led by Koldewey and Andrae, were excavating at Babylon and Ashur. These latter were most thorough and efficient excavations which revealed stratigraphic succession of occupations and effected the total clearance of town sites. Nor should we forget that Schliemann though not an official German archaeologist and indeed himself proud of his American status was by birth and upLater,

bringing a German; although his earlier excavations were much criticized, his later work under the guidance

of Dorpfeld was very good. Certainly in the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Germans were coming
into their

own

as archaeologists.

But Kossinna complained that the new German archaeology was concentrating on classical lands and
was, therefore, prepared implicitly or explicitly to describe the Germans of antiquity as poor barbarians. He

complained that the Berlin Academy of Sciences wel-

comed

representatives of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, German Oriental and antiquity but no one dealing with the that further He organizacomplained prehistory. tion of museums in Prussia made the museum of

German prehistory appear as of less importance than the collections illustrating Hottentot and Papuan life. He kept insisting that this was wrong and kept quoting the historian SybeTs doctrine that "a nation which fails to keep in living touch with its past is as near to drying are today what we up as a tree with severed roots. were yesterday." Kossinna deliberately set out to prove the importance

We

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 146 and greatness of the Germans through prehistory. He inflated chronology so that everything seemed to have started in Germany and spread out from the superior Germans to the inferiors all around. He was quite certain about the megalith builders, for example, and had them moving out from Germany all over the ancient can laugh European and Mediterranean world. at these fantasies of Kossinna at the present day; but he was serious about them, and they were seriously taken

We

accepted the of the antiquity apparent proof provided by prehistory and superiority of the Germans.
racialists

up by German

who

readily

Other countries have supplied similar examples of
the use of early history and prehistory for political ends. Mussolini had great illuminated maps by which the

Roman Empire

gradually enlarged from Rome to its fullest extent under Trajan. Then the illumination went

out abruptly and, as Professor Grahame Clark remarks: '"The observer waited in vain who hoped to see
unfolded successive stages in the decline and disintegration of the Empire; the lights went out abruptly and the process of growth began anew." 3 And these
prehistoric political tricks continue; a few years ago I saw in Madrid maps of the Iberian colonization of

Europe and it was some while before I realized that I was looking at a distribution map of Beakers dating from say 2000 to 1800 B.C.
I have given you some examples of the use of a false idea of prehistory in recent politics; the best example was of course in Germany, where a perversion of prehistory was crossed with racialism and anti-Semitism.
3
J.

G. D. CLARK, Archaeology and Society

(first

edition, 1939),

201.

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS
The Nazi

147

regime did not last long enough for us to have maps deriving all civilization from the Germanic

As

north, but this might have been arranged in time. Hitler himself said: "There is no such thing as truth. Science is a social phenomenon and like every other
social
it

phenomenon

is

limited by the benefit or injury

confers

on the community."

Let us

now

turn briefly to Russia. Here since the

revolution the possibilities of archaeology have been Institute of Material Culpursued by the N. Y. of the ture, a research organ Academy of Sciences of

Man

the U.S.S.R.
U.S.S.R.

Now

one of the avowed functions of the

Research Institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the
is

pseudo-scientific
fields

to "organize and lead the struggle against theories and trends in the various

of knowledge/' and the late Professor A. M. this struggle has Tallgren of Helsinki has told us how he knew in the whom of the archaeologists disposed twenties. In his survey of Archaeological Studies in
Soviet Russia, Tallgren said sadly and cynically after colgiving a long list of his liquidated archaeological
leagues:

"How

rich

humanity must be

if it

can

dis-

of course, these pense with such good men." Now, men were being disposed of so that a particular brand of prehistory could be taught in Russia, and there is no confusion or shame or uncertainty about the Russian desire to do this as there was none in Nazi Germany.
Stalin himself said that the significance of historical

way they hamper the development and He was saying in another way progress of society. "Men make their own history." To a cerEngels's words:
ideas lies in the
tain extent this
is

true,

and

my

the Josiah ologist in giving

Mason

predecessor as archaeLectures, Gordon

148

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
no good
4

Childe, said roundly and frankly: "It is just demanding that history shall be unbiased."

Childe

himself was praised in Soviet archaeological circles. In his The Crisis in Bourgeois Archaeology, Mongait says:

Contemporary bourgeois archaeologists ... are the vanguard of reaction, against which we lead and will continue to lead a bitter struggle. . . , Bourgeois archaeology, like history, is distinguished by extreme idealism (A. Goldenweiser). The English historian Collingwood goes

even further

.

.

.

and Daniel follows

after Taylor.

.

.

.

There are

also progressive scholars

who

are friends of

our country and who understand very well the universal significance of our science. . . . One of these is Gordon Childe; Childe has not yet succeeded in overcoming many of the errors of bourgeois science. But he understands that scientific truth
is

in the socialist

camp and

is

not ashamed to
5

call

himself a pupil of Soviet archae-

ologists.

have already referred to the work of Lewis H. Morgan and how he set out a series of ethnic periods leading from Lower Savagery to Civilization. What is
important at the present day is to realize that Engels was enormously influenced by Morgan. He summarized Morgan's ethnic periods in his Origin of the Family (1884) and there declared in a statement which of course cannot be sustained for a moment that "Morgan is the first man who with expert knowledge has at-

We

tempted to introduce a definite order into human prehistory." At first the Russians liked the system of ethnic periods but it was not readily usable as a classification of archaeological material, and in the twenties of this
4

V. G. CHILDE, History (1947),
Quoted from M.

22.

5

MTT.T.EK, Archaeology

m the USSR.

(1956),

148-51.

LANGUAGE, RACE, AND POLITICS

149

century the Russians, like even-one else, were using the Thomsen system of the Three Ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron. In the 19305 they abandoned this and began
to speak of three grades of society, namely pre-clan said society, clan society, and class society. Efimenko

that pre-clan society was represented by what we would call the Lower Paleolithic. The rest of the Paleolithic

and the

was mainly clan society; first, the matriarchal clans which were alleged to be Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic, then a transition to patrirest of prehistory

archal clan organization beginning with the Neolithic and from then on a steady decline to class society what

was

called "the period of the disintegration of the clan." I want to say only two things here about all this. First
it is

a deliberate going back to the psychic unity of man, to the ideas of natural, social, or supra-organic evolution. No diffusion was allowed at all. Secondly it was a hypothetical system of cultural evolution which when devised was then imposed on the archaeological
that
material.

We have seen how the

first

ideas of prehistory

were pre-archaeological and how an archaeological idea of man's early past was developed painfully over the last hundred years. We have seen how responsible scientists like Elliot Smith rejected the idea of archaeand how politicians ological prehistory as unsatisfactory, on based archaeology because it rejected prehistory and ends their did not suit replaced it by an invented of on based premises like the superiority prehistory from of evolution natural or the the Germans society

what a great choice of in ideas there prehistory. To misquote you their own prehistory. make men that see Engds, you What a choice lies in front of you at present. You can
is

to class. pre-clan through clan I hope you are beginning to see
for

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 150 have a Russian Marxist prehistory, a German chauvinist prehistory, you can have Elliot Smith and his Egyptians, or you can even bury your head in the sand and sigh for the good old days of the Phoenicians and the Druids, or, emerging from the past, pay your subscription to the Atlantis society or buy books on Tiahuanaco. Or you can, with as little prejudice as any man can bring to any problem, try to see what the prehistoric
record does tell, and what at this mid-century moment should try to evaluate as the lessons of the prehistory of man, what as historians we do now think of man's earliest history. It is to an evaluation of this task that I shall now direct your thoughts.

we

VII
Prehistory and the Historians

have attempted to trace, albeit in very summary fashway in which prehistory as an academic disciand a branch of learning came into existence in the pline last hundred and fifty years, and to discuss the different ideas of prehistory which have been held at different
I

ion, the

times

before and after the development of archaeology
past.

as a deliberate technique of studying the material re-

mains of the

This development, which put an end
to prehistory

to legendary or mythological prehistory

based entirely on speculation did not rule out the possibilities of prehistory which, while using archaeological methods like distribution maps and the comparative study of material remains, yet flourished with such a disregard for facts as virtually to revert to mythology and to the days of pre-archaeological prehistory.
I now want to consider what has, in fact, been created by a century and a half of archaeological investigation

THE IDEA OP PREHISTORY 152 and prehistorical research. In the first place a branch of learning, an academic discipline, has been brought into existence and one which, as we shall discuss in the
last lecture,

has at the

great claims
is

on the
it tell

surprisingly interest of the general public.

moment

great

and

this

branch of learning?
us?

What does
dred
its

What What does it try to tell us? What are its relationships to kinhuman geography, sociology, And what is the relevance of

fields

of study like

anthropology, history?

teachings, its conclusions, its perspective of the past to us as private individuals, as political individuals, and

as educationists? These are some of the questions about the nature and relevance of the idea of prehistory that

proposing to discuss. of course, a word about the eternal question which besets eveiyone who sets out to discuss the naI

am now
First,

ture of any branch of learning;

We

is it a science or not? In a matter not of absolute values and ultimate decisions but of terminology and definitions. ourselves have made these terms science, the humanities, the arts, the human sciences, and whether a new branch of learning which we as scholars have created, developed, and defined falls within any of these

the end

it is all

how we define them how we define them now and how we have defined them in the past. Originally science meant all knowledge and in the seventeenth century when the Royal Society, which we nowadays regard as the stronghold of science, came
terms depends on
into existence it comprised all knowledge. It certainly dealt not only with what we should now call the natural sciences but with the material remains of man,
early days counted as members men like John and Edward Lhuyd, who were antiquaries. Yet Aubrey were they polymaths and Lhuyd himself wrote about

and

in

its

asbestos

153 and fossils as well as about New Grange and Cornish and Breton. And there was nothing odd in the

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS

early days of the Royal Society in a Fellow of College in Cambridge, Martin Lister,

my own
Roman

reading papers

to the Royal Society

both on zoology and on

remains.
terests.

polymathy comprised all these inAubrey, Lhuyd, Lister did not call themselves
Sir Isaac

A

liberal

scientists.

When

Newton became

president of the

Royal Society he discouraged an interest in the material remains of the past and the Royal Society began to confine its interests to

what we now call the natural sciences,

to the study of nature and to exclude the study of man's culture. Here began or was first formalized tie distinc-

and the study of manbetween the sciences and the arts, or between the natural sciences and the human sciences. The arts
tion between the study of nature

or humanities, by definition, deal with man as a cultured animal, in fact the only animal with culture, with a transmittable body of ideas, customs, beliefs,
practices dependent on that main agent of transmission, language, and in the last few millennia of his existence, that other main agent of cultural trans-

and

mission, the written word. It is beyond dispute that

by

ination

and

university degree system

practice in school examand in general

parlance we distinguish between the natural sciences (or the natural and physical sciences) and the humanities (or the arts or the human sciences). It is also beyond dispute that this distinction is not only one of subject-matter but of fundamental principles;

the natural scientist hopes to find laws which are immutable and which are indeed the ultimate facts
of the natural world.

The

scholar

who

devotes him-

154
self to

piously declare that he aims, to find laws of a similar nature. But this he never does unless general statements, like

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY man and his works may hope, and may

a religious animal/' or "Man is a historic animal" (meaning that no known societies exist in

"Man

is

which there

is

no

religion

and no awareness of the past)

are thought to be general laws. There are then two customary ways of using the
science; it can

word

mean knowledge
is

or

it

can mean knowl-

edge of nature. There

of course a third

way

in

which
speak

we

use the word science or particularly the adjective

"scientific."

That

is

as applied to

method.

We

of the scientific
principles

method when we mean the use of

of collecting evidence, deduction, experimentationbut these have by now become so much

a general part of the methodical exploration of all knowledge that we sometimes find people thinking the scientific method is no more than just common sense.

When, then, we are asked, "Is prehistory a science?" we are really being asked one of three questions, namely,
"Is prehistory a part of knowledge?" and "Is prehistory concerned with nature?" and "Is prehistory scientific

method?" The answer to the first and third quesin the affirmative, but to the second the answer must surely be no. Prehistory deals with man and not with nature and is not part of the natural sciences: it is part of human not natural history. It comes, of course, very close to the natural sciences and indeed is the bridge between geology and history. It deals a great deal with periods of time, the Pleistocene and Holocene, which are the concern of the geologist and natural historian, and uses a great number of techniques which belong to the natural and physical sciences, such as
in
its

tions

is

Carbon-i4

analysis, fluorine analysis,

the petrological

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS

155

analysis of stone, the metallurgical analysis of metals,

to mention only a few of these analytical techniques. The prehistorian is dependent for a great deal of his

information about the biome of early man, 1 the vegetation in which a society flourished, the plants they collected or grew, the animals they hunted or reared,

on expert advice from
it is

zoologists

and

botanists;

and

a prerequisite of the training of a prehistorian, more especially if he is going to concern himself

with the long millennia of human development comprised by the terms Paleolithic and Mesolithic, that he should be thoroughly grounded in the natural sciences which serve him. It is also true that in dealing with
little different

the Lower Paleolithic cultures the prehistorian is from the Pleistocene geologist who is of horse or hippo in the same defossils the studying
posits.

The

cultural fossils

may

appear

little

different

from the organic fossils in the technique required for their discovery and study. But Acheulian hand axes are cultural fossils and the product of the human mind and human craftsmanship. The scholar who studies Neanderthal man's bones is a natural scientist while he who studies Neanderthal man's artifacts is a historian, however little cultural material he has to work on. This
break in the study of man grows as the complexity would not of the archaeological evidence grows. our bones who studies the confuse specialist today with the man who studies our crafts or culture. should not make this confusion in prehistory because

We

We

1

in the very remote past the cultural and the physical This useful but inelegant phrase was coined by J. G. D. Clark

in his Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Basis (1950). It is no accident that the Chair of Archaeology concerned with the Paleolithic and Mesolithic in the University of London is called

the Professorship of Environmental Archaeology.

156

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
and one
scholar can

records are so thin

be master of

both. Prehistory is then a humanity; it is the earliest phase of historical study. It is part of history and those who would call it science are using the word science in

a very special way. Prehistoiy

is

part of

human

history

and, therefore, suffers from all the problems inherent in historical method the difficulty of evaluating evidence, the inability of writing without some form of
bias,

and the constantly changing picture of history according to the changing ways and ideas and preconceptions of historians.

But it suffers from far more difficulties than those which beset the writer of history, difficulties based mainly or entirely on written records. The main difficulty is that by definition prehistoric archaeology is dealing with prewritten sources only; so that all predo not know the name of the history is anonymous.

We

architect of Stonehenge, or of the

man whose body was

recovered from the Tollund peat-bog in Jutland and whose noble features look calmly at us across twenty
centuries.

We

do not know the names of the com-

munities or societies whose material culture

we

study

and

classify as cultures.
difficulty
its

This

is

why prehistory reads with

such

people and

archaeological difference between prewritten

many people, with its Beaker Long Barrow men not to say its pieces of algebra like Iron Age I (a) i. And the
to so

and written history goes

deeper than names and the absence of names. It is this more fundamental fact that from preliterate sources we know and can know only a part of the total culture of these preliterate societies. Prehistory not only deals with anonymous societies grouped into divisions of its own devising; but it is inevitably mainly concerned with the material cultural aspects of these

much

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
anonymous societies. This is, as I have said, inevitable from the nature of the archaeological source, for what survive from prehistoric times are stone tools, bronze weapons, hut foundations, tombs, field walls, and the
like.

We

ideals of a society, but the prehistorian the sad fact that the ideals perish, and it

are accustomed to speak of the imperishable is witness to
is

and chinaware of a society that are imperishable. We have no way of learning the moral and religious ideas of the protohistoric city dwellers of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa but their drains, their brick rubbish chutes, and
their terra-cotta toys survive. It is in the fact that the prehistorian seems to be concerned mainly with varieties of houses and tombs

the cutlery

cutlery and safety pins that many have greatest criticism of the subject Prehistory

and

found the would ap-

essentials of

pear to be concerned, some have argued, with the nonhuman life: **We do not wish to know,"

say these critics, "about the types of safety pin used by the Early Iron Age fanners of France^ or the details

by the metal prospectors Western Europe; we want to know the essentials of these societies how they lived, what they thought, what were their ideals and illusions/' Now there is some truth and much distortion in this view of prehistory. Prehistory is not concerned only with types of safely pins and tombs; it uses these and other facts to build up a picture of prehistoric life how food was obtained, what sort of villages and farms existed, what were the crops and field systems and animals, what were the types of burial custom. Cerof
construction adopted

tomb

of 2000

B.C. in

tainly prehistory concerns itself with the types of life

of prehistoric societies. But equally certainly it does not speak about the spiritual, mental, and moral cul-

158

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

ture of these societies. It cannot speak of the social organization or the religious beliefs of prehistoric society,

and

this

When

a fundamental limitation of prehistory. prehistorians speak of the ideas and ideals of
is

men before writing, they are making guessesintelligent guesses by people best qualified to make them, but nevertheless guesses.
Some
and to
prehistorians have attempted to break through
this limiting factor

by using two methods of

special,

the use of ethnographical comparisons, and the second is the acceptance as fact of hypothetical evolutional}' systems. Let us discuss the use of ethnographical parallels first.
doubtful, validity.
first is

my mind

The

Balked by the absence of detail in prehistory, or so it must seem as one looks at the limitations and intractability

of the surviving archaeological material, some prehistorians have turned to surviving preliterate societies,

namely the present-day primitive

societies studied

by the anthropologist, which only just miss being classified as prehistory. These archaeologists seek in these
existing societies a guide to the way of life of our prehistoric ancestors. good example of this is provided by in his Ancient Hunters, first pubJ. Sollas

A

W.

lished in 1911. To a certain extent the use of these ethnographical
parallels is fair

and

just.

The

prehistorian can under-

stand the nature of the prehistoric artifacts he studies only by comparing them with those used by modern
primitives.

But some prehistorians, not content with inferring the function of prehistoric artifacts from the
form between prehistoric and modem artihave gone further and have assumed that the identity of form between the artifacts of modem preidentity of

facts,

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
literates

and of

prehistoric societies

159 means not only

probable identify of function in material culture, but also identify in the social structure and mental and
spiritual beliefs of the tvvo societies

being compared.

Surely this assumption is most fallacious: because the Magdalenian folk of south France have certain parallels
in formal material culture with the Eskimo, we cannot argue that they have the same economic organization, marriage customs, or beliefs about the afterlife. It

not even reasonably probable that the same form of artifact should imply the same kind of economic oris

ganization, let alone social structure, or mental
spiritual

and

culture;

and

this

borne in on one the more social and mental culture that

inherent improbability is one studies the variety of
exists at the present

day among the so-called primitive communities of the world. In a word, as Ehrenburg has put it, "it is a
delusion to think that 'experimenting' with the socalled primitives of yesterday and today provides scientific material for prehistory and history." I am not saying that by faying to understand the
life

of the Tlingit and Haida in British Columbia, for example, or of the Bushman Hunters of South Africa,
inside of foodif

one does not get a better view of the gathering communities in the past than

one confines

one's viewpoint to modem twentieth-century food-producing cultures in southern England; nor am I saying

that the technology and spiritual life of preliterate societies do not give us hints and suggestions of great

value in the interpretation of prehistoric artifacts. The same is true of the study of modem folk cultures, as
Professor
it

Grahame Clark has
and

often insisted, but again

gives only suggestions

hints,

and cannot be used

l6o

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
2

deterministically. Ethnographic determinism is as dangerous as any other determinist doctrine; we cannot say, for example, that because the Tasmanians when they were discovered, described, and destroyed in the nineteenth century were formally Neolithic, that they are a

complete guide to the ideas and beliefs of all Neolithic communities. And the same is very true of the foodgathering communities which in a general way we can
Paleolithic and Mesolithic huntingIndeed there is a tremendous varicommunities. fishing ety among the beliefs of hunting communities; compare the rich and leisurely British Columbians with their

compare with the

potlatch economy and their fine woodwork and blankets on the one hand and the Tasmanians on the other

both are formally Neolithic.

The real point here is that, quite apart from our present problem, there is no coincidence between the material and nonmaterial aspects of culture. Indeed
why
should there be?

And

if

we once

accept this,

it is

clearly useless to expect the moral and mental culture of modern primitives in the same or apparently the

culture as some prehistoric primito give us a real or true guide to the moral and mental culture of the prehistoric society.

same state of material
tives,

If

total picture of prehistoric societies,

ethnography does not help us in reconstructing the what can we turn

to? I have already referred to the evolutionary systems of cultural development which were being proposed in the nineteenth century. Spencer, Tylor, and Jevons

suggested stages in the supposed religious evolution of
2
J.

G. D. CLARK, "Folk-culture and

&e

history" in

W. F.

Study of European Pre-

Grimes,

and Beyond ( 1951 ) , and Archaeology and Society

Aspects of Archaeology in Britain 49; Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Basis;
ed.,

(third edition, 1957).

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
man, while Bachofen, McLennan, and Morgan

l6l
sug-

gested stages of social evolution. I have already spoken of Morgan's ethnic stages and how they were approved

of by Engels and

how Marxism

has

made

use of these

fallacious evolutionary systems. The interesting thing, for our immediate purpose, is that some prehistorians

have accepted these evolutional}' sequences as of equal validity with the sequence of technological stages associated with

Thomsen, and

it is

from these equations

Age being spoken of as one of primitive communism, the Bronze Age as seeing the beginnings of private property, and so on. Now all this
that
find the Neolithic
is a process of hypostasization; of treating proposed evolutionary sequences as facts, and of forgetting that all

we

the nineteenth-century cultural evolutionary sequences,
sequence proposed by Soviet archaeologists for and class society, are merely schemes, ideas, and projects. They may be right, but they are invalid as a source for the mental and spiritual life of
pre-clan, clan,
like the

prehistoric

manas

invalid,
parallels.

though as

suggestive, as

our ethnographical
parallels

But there is this difference between ethnographical and hypothetical systems. The facts of the

ethnographical parallels are accurate; it is merely using them as deterministic parallels that is wrong. But the
of
facts of the supposed evolutionary cultural sequences man are not necessarily facts at all; these sequences

are mainly the result of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought and a belief that cultural or supra-organic evolution must necessarily follow physical evolution, and which arranged all social and cultural phenomena in

such sequences.

It is easy to set

out baldly the basis of

this nineteenth-century thought:

monogamy and mono-

theism were the practices and the virtues of the nine-

162

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

teenth century, and the extremes from these practices, namely polygamy or promiscuity and animism, were
necessarily

Of

what the earliest men thought and practiced. course, subsequent anthropological work has shown that many of these alleged early stages in belief and
do not
is

practice just in sequences

exist,

and that

their

arrangement

pure hypothesis. are then driven back from modern primitives and the schemes of historical anthropologists to the hard archaeological facts. How hard are they, and how

We

exciting can

we make our modem

story of ancient

man?

We must repeat that our only source for information on
prehistoric times is archaeology. In the Josiah Mason Lectures which Professor Gordon Childe gave here in

Birmingham in 1947-8, and which were published in his book Social Evolution in 1951, he asked how far it was legitimate to infer nonmaterial facts about prehistoric man from the material remains that survive. I do not want to go over the ground he trod so well in
dealing with this question, but let us put the question in its crudest form in front of ourselves like this. When

we

look at the great paintings in the hillside of Laswe really able to say that they were done for purposes of sympathetic hunting magic? When we see

caux are

the great stone tombs in France with their carved goddess figures, can we say that these are the tombs of
chieftains

who imposed their beliefs on an impoverished

population? When we find two people, a man and a woman, buried in the same grave, does it mean suttee

or murder, or that they both died at the same time through some disease? Let us look at this archaeological

problem in a different way.
forbid

If

one day

which

God
is re-

my own

University City of
ruins,

duced to uninhabited

Cambridge and no written records

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
survive of
its life,

163

the ruins will show several rectangular like buildings King's College Chapel, many cinemas, the Examination Schools, and public buildings like the

Com
no

Exchange which

skating rink.

The

nowadays used mainly as a archaeologist of the future, if he has
is

written or epigraphical sources, will surely lump together all these rectangular buildings as "public

a way, so they are whether be they College chapel, skating rink, or cinema. One will thing puzzle the archaeologist and that is the ruins of the Church of St. Sepulchre, one of the four round churches of Britain. This too would clearly be a ritual or cult building; it is obviously not a tomb or a house. Perhaps the archaeologist of the future would distinguish two cultures in Cambridge, one having long rectangular buildings and the other having round buildritual buildings," and, in

ings.

Within the

justifiable limits of exaggeration to

emphasize a point,

the sort of way, uncritically, that archaeologists might work. Now let us look at Gordon Chflde's conclusions.
this is just

Here are

his words:

In certain circumstances, and always with reserve, archaeology can provide some indications as to the form of government and of the family, the recognition of rank, the distribution of the social product and the practice of war. It is never likely to be able to tell us anything about the administration of justice, the penalties needed to enforce it, nor the contents of any laws, the way in which descent rather than the inheritance of property is determined, the effective limitations on the powers of chiefs, or even of the extent of their authority. The content of religious belief and the nature of the prestige conferred by rank are irretrievably lost. 3
3

V. G. CHILDE, Socid Evolution (1951),

55.

164
I

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

have deliberately quoted at length these words by one of our most distinguished prehistorians, whose mind was so agile and nimble that he took an almost
perverse delight in archaeological experimentation in turning upside down theories which the orthodox (including himself of a few weeks or months or years

ago) taught and wrote about He himself in his Scotland Before the Scots, admittedly a wicked experiment in archaeological interpretation, did not practice
the reservations which he laid
lectures. 4

down

in his

Mason

These reservations are right ones, and it follows from our acceptance of them that not only is the record of the prehistoric past limited, not only can we not answer so many of the questions which the interested public ask, but also that it is impossible to
equate any of the theoretical stages of cultural evolution with archaeological stages. Let me say one thing about this again: when I spoke of the work of the
Russians and the application of archaeology to their

schemes of pre-clan, clan, and dass society, I did not mean that the schemes were necessarily wrong; merely that it was wrong to pretend that the record of prearchaeology proved these schemes. The unfortunate fact that must be faced is that prehistoric archaeology does not tell us so much of what we want
historic

to

know

as historians of

man

about man's early
to the very

life.

And

here perhaps

we come

extremely important and interesting
historians in

nub of an problem. Why do

a general way pay so little attention to this fourth division of the study of the human past; while
recognizing ancient history do they not give more recognition to prehistory? Just take a look at any of
*

ChOde was alive at the time I gave the Mason Lectures in mingham. He died in October 1957.

Bir-

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
our short
through
histories

l6j

of this country from Trevelyan

Winston Feiling and Arthur Biyant to Churchill; in all of them all we get about pre-Roman Britain is a short curtain-raiser and we are moved hurriedly and with relief on to the Romans with their names and dates and inscriptions and good historical habits. Let me quote the words at the end of George

Trevelyan's introduction to the beginnings of British
history:

study of the Mingling of the Races in Britain, endwith the advent of the Normans, covers a thousand ing years of history very dimly descried, succeeding to many thousands more of archaeological twilight. The era of Celt, Saxon and Dane is like Macbeth's battle on the blasted heath. Prophecy hovers around. Horns are heard blowing in the mist, and a confused uproar of savage catch glimpses of giant figures tumult and outrage.

The

We

mostly warriors at strife.

But there

are ploughmen,

too, it seems, breaking the primeval clod, and we hear the sounds of forests crashing to the axe. Around all is

the lap of waves and the cry of seamen beaching their
ships.

These words were
are
still

originally written in 1926 but they relevant. Historians are taking a long time to

There

integrate prehistory into their general view of man. are many reasons for this. First, the material of
is,

prehistory

as

we have

seen, difficult

and

different.

often tantalizingly inadequate and refuses Secondly, to provide the answers to so many problems we ask. In the third place, I think many historians are still
it is

suspicious of

some of the preoccupations and

ideas of

one of the reasons why more not was immediately accepted by hisprehistory

prehistoric archaeologists. It has seemed to me that

l66

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

was that the were sometimes, in the last prehistoric archaeologists
torians as part of their general story
thirty years or so, apparently suspect because of their association with geographers. I mean here nothing, of course, rude or derogatory about geographers, nor that

the geographer has not a role and function in the study of prehistory. Indeed the geographer has very important,
interesting,

and

vital roles.

There are endless

definitions

of the scope and nature of geography almost as many as there are Professors of Geography but what everyone is agreed about is that the geographer in the

modem convenient arrangement of fields of study is concerned with the face of the earth, and is perhaps at
his finest
earth's surface,

when he is describing small areas when he is engaged in regional

of the
geogra-

phy. Here the geographer is doing what the good historian does when he takes a small period of time
in

an area and

tells

us

all

he can about the

historical

context of the space-time area so defined. Similarly the geographer is at his best in giving us geographical
contexts; he tells us for example what the face of Brittany looks like and describes the features on that rugged sea-girt countenance the mountains and rivers, the

driving rains and thick sea-mists, the harbors and the sardine and tunny fisheries, the isolated granite farmsteads, the

long cold meadows. In any geographical context there are natural and cultural features to the

landscape, and if we analyze the cultural landscape we will find that it is of two kinds the living and func-

and the dead, fossil, cultural landscape. geographer, as he describes his region or chosen area, as he analyzes the man-made features of the face of the earth and constructs his geographical context, is constantly coming up against the dead and
tional cultural landscape,

The

the dying

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS l6j prehistoric earthworks, Roman villas, Nor-

mattes, dead and decaying towns, deserted villages, nineteenth-century disused railways. All these
things he sees as he sees the living towns and and farms and factories of the landscape. The
villages

man

geogra-

pher then shares the nonfunctional cultural landscape with the archaeologist, and the barrows and banks and
ditches of
in

pre-Roman Britain are as much one way as they are the concern of the

his concern

prehistorian

in another.

We surely do not need to labor this point, but let us
take just one example: Dartmoor.

The geography
fossils

of

Dartmoor must most

necessarily

be concerned with the
the cultural
of

dead aspects of the landscape

the period generally referred to as from the Early Bronze Age through to the Roman Conquest a period
of

some

fifteen

hundred years from which survive
megalithic tombs,
sites.

stone rows and
huts,

circles,

and smelting
all

The
is

know about
if

this if

he

field pounds, geographer must needs ever to read accurately

the face of Dartmoor, and so must the prehistorian
trying to reconstruct historical contexts and understand why and how people lived on the moor in

he

is

historian

the pre-Roman centuries. The geographer and the premeet in the map. Prehistory is vitally concerned with the distribution of the material remains

which survive from the prehistoric past; indeed this is the first of its two techniques of interpretationexamining an antiquity or a culture in space and time. Space means the map and the distribution map has been a key feature of archaeological interpretation, research, and exposition for over sixty to seventy years. But the geographer does not study one element of the cultural landscape alone: he sees it as part of the

l68
tures.

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
made up
of natural and cultural feagradually this geographical

total landscape

Very approach to prebecame and cultures were history popular. Antiquities studied not merely distributionally on a blank map of Europe but geographically on a map of soils, rocks, climate, and vegetation and in relation to these facts of physical geography. The German geologist Gradmann did this in 1898 and as a result argued that prehistoric settlement was virtually confined to open country country of a steppelike character- and this of course included the loess lands. In England O. G. S. Crawford began preparing maps of antiquities and studying

them

against the background of prehistoric vegeta-

the postulated background of prehistoric vegetation; his maps of Neolithic Wessex and Roman Britain are perhaps the best known examples of this
tion, or, rather,

work.
In 1916 two geographers working at the University College of Wales, Abeiystwyth, namely H. J. Fleure and W. E. Whitehouse, aigued that from distributional studies alone one could say that prehistoric man

on the hilltops and only gradually moved down into the valley bottoms. Of course there is some truth in this. know how in the early period of Roman
lived

We

occupation

the

conquered
St.

Ancient Britons

moved

and Maiden Castle to lowland settlements like Winchester and Dorchester. But Fleure and Whitehouse made this a general law: the law of the Early Valleyward Movement of Population in Southern Britain, and as a general law it began to look dangerous, and deterministic, and unhistorical. In 1923 Sir Cyril Fox published his Archaeology of the Cambridge Region and showed how the pattern of settlement had changed in
from
hfllforts like

Catharine's Hill

169 he was able to show that what Fleure and Whitehouse had observed in Wales was a specialized instance of the real trends in British prehistory, namely the shift from primary to secondary areas of settlement, from light easily worked
relation to the natural vegetation;
soils to
it

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS

the hard,

difficult,

waterclogged, clayey

soils;

that

was a Welsh mountain version of a general principle. Indeed, Mortimer Wheeler has cynically described the work of the Aberystwyth geographers as a doctrine "naturally popularized by a school of able and eloquent 5 geographers working in a mountain environment." Following on his studies in East Anglia, Fox tested his thesis in relation to England and Wales as a whole and we see his ideas set out in The Personality of Britain, first published in 1932. Here Fox combined
the ecological-distributional ideas of people like Gradmann and Crawford with the ideas of positional geogra-

phy developed by Halford Mackinder in his Britain and the British Seas and the "personality" idea of the French geographers. But it began to savor rather
and
strangely of geographical determinism; prehistorians historians began to get suspicious. They began to

get more suspicious when other prehistorians referred to Fox's interesting and suggestive conclusions as "Fox's
laws." In the revised fourth edition of

of Britain
is

he

4<

says,

The

The Personality further a continental society

from the Mediterranean the more barbarous it will be," and confesses that he was driven to study the geographical factor in prehistory because he was looking
for a unifying force to take the place in prditerate days of the individual factor in historical days.

But should we assume that the geographical
5

factor

R. E.

M. WHEELER,

Prehistoric

and Roman Wales (1925),

214.

is

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY 170 more any powerful among preliterate

societies

in

the prehistoric past than it is in historic times; should we underestimate the personal factor in prehistory just because the persons are nameless? I do not want to
take up any more space here in discussing the validity of the ideas of geographical determinism in prehistory: most people today would say that there were no mandatory geographical laws in prehistory, as in history, ex-

cept the obvious extreme mandates of climate and natural resources. These when stated baldly are obvious
platitudes
it is

clear that the climate

and resources in

the South and North poles have not made those areas centers of population and cradles of civilization. It is
equally obvious that a bronze industry cannot originate and flourish naturally or easily in an area where copper

and

tin do not exist. concern here is to suggest that these geographical ideas of prehistory arose and flourished for a while and did something to make prehistory suspect to the formal historians; it became to

My

some of them

for a while

something

like historical

geography, emphasizing a facile and inaccurate explanation of a series of facts which might not be explicable
at
all.

The

historians then, in their approach to pre-

dislike of the geodeterminist bias. graphical The}' have also had to get over their intrinsic dislike of the overadvocacy of the importance of prehistoric

history,

have had to get over their

good
all

archaeology, of the school of scholars who said in all faith that a sherd of decorated pottery was worth
.

erally

Herodotus, or that "to the peoples of the world gen. . Paleolithic man has more meaning than the Greeks." 6 They have also had to get over the way in
results

which men trained in the methods and
J.

of pre-

G. D. CLAKK,

Antiquity, 1943, 118.

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
history have extended their studies to include the

whole

of history and produced books which seemed to put the study of written history into an unimportant position
vis-&-vis prehistory.

pologist
final

Lowie has

Admittedly, as the American anthrosaid, written history is "only the

it is surely impospeople today to study history by studying only written history; that would be, as Charles Letoumeau said half a century ago, like trying "to

scene of a lengthy drama," and

sible for thinking

reconstruct a book from
historian like
site direction

its last chapter." But a preGordon Childe goes too far in the oppowhen he calls a book that deals mainly

with prehistory and protohistory,
History? and

What Happened

in

we see the same sort of problem though not in such a degree in Carleton S. Coon's The History of Man (published in America as The Story of Man). Nevertheless, books such as these and the writing of prehistory as a whole have done a great deal to jerk

modem
World
cialized

historians

into

a

new

universalist

outlook.

or Universal History existed in the sixteenth
it

century, but

gradually

became more and more

spe-

and detailed, particularly since 1881 when Leo XIII opened the Vatican archives and, in Pope England, since 1886, when Sir Henry Maxwell Lyte became Director of the Public Record Office. A new and detailed form of history developed, sharply described by Geoffrey Barraclough as "that devoted worship and admiring contemplation of its own navel which has

made many otherwise not unsympathetic observers ask whether the measurable results justified the immeasurable expenditure of effort." 7 Whether this be true or not, we must agree with Butterfield when he says that
T

GEOFFREY BARRACLOUGH, History

in

a Chtm&ng World (1956),

16.

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
"Universal history has ceased to hold a prominent place

presumably because it spreads the mind an area that the knowledge can hardly over so wide
in our interests

avoid becoming too thin." 8 again on the view that the knowltoo thin; here let me underline the edge becomes mind." Is that not really what we phrase "spreads the
I shall

comment

want

historians

and

prehistorians to

do

as well as to

concentrate on the intricacies of nineteenth-century Germany or the construction of Stonehenge, and is

not that
History,

why we welcome H. G.
Gordon
Chflde's

Wells's Outline of
in History?,

What Happened

and Coon's The Story of Man even if we criticize them in detail? Here is the broad sweep which we need. To quote Barraclough again: 'The crying need today is not for specialization, which means fragmentation, but for integration and this requires not simply specialized
knowledge but the general historical understanding of the course of European and indeed extra-European history"* There has been one historian in the last fifteen years who has revived universal history and tried to make historians look at the world other than as a Western European world. I refer to Professor Arnold J. Toynbee, but his conclusions and his basic thesis do not recommend themselves to a prehistorian. His basic thesis, as I understand it, is that we can distinguish a certain number of complicated societies which he calls civilizations with their cities, technologies, and religions, and that we can study them in isolation from their past and their contemporary civilizations and we can see

them behaving
*

as living organisms.

*

H. BuTTEWiEU), Man on His Past (1955), 44. GEOFFREY BA&RACX.OUGH, History in a Changing World,

20.

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS
Let us look very
briefly at

173

Toynbee

in relation to

civilization. Archaeological research

the problem usually referred to as that of the birth of has shown that the
that is to say societies are found in Egypt, Palesknow now that writing,

earliest traces of civilization

and Mesopotamia. We life, and the arts of metallurgy were invented in one center or in several centers in what Breasted called
tine,

with writing and a

city life

urban

the Fertile Crescent.

Now, of

course,

it is vital

to

Toyn-

bee's thesis to study the origin of the oldest of his civilizations in lie Near East. This he does and these are
his conclusions:

he

attributes the origin of civilization

to the desiccation of the Sahara and represents this desiccation as a challenge to be overcome. He makes

the valleys of the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates not delectable as do the geographical prehistorians like Peake and Fleure, but horrible jungle swamps another
challenge to be overcome. Toynbee then says that six things happened to man as the Sahara dried up and

became a

desert:

first,

perished; secondly, in the Sahara, mastered the challenge of the environment, and evolved a nomadic way of life; thirdly, some

some people stayed there and some people stayed where they were

went south and retained their old coming the Dinka and ShflluL In some people went north, according became the Neolithic agriculturists
continent

way of

life,

be-

the fourth place,
to Toynbee,

and

of the European

although Toynbee does not tell us how these folk discovered agriculture on the way along a route where cereals do not occur wild. Fifthly, there were those who plunged into the jungle swamps of the

Near East and met this challenge by inventing civilization; and sixth and last there were those who plunged across the sea and made the Minoan civilization.

174

THE IDE A OF PREHISTORY
real tragedy
is

The
with a

of Toynbee's writing on the origin
is

of civilization
flair

that here

for universal history

a distinguished historian who has somehow

failed to understand the archaeological record. Instead of using his great gifts towards the acquisition and synthesis of knowledge to provide us with the

universal history we so much want in the middle of the twentieth century, he has confused the early history of man with his predetermined patterns, and has, there-

and the study of prehistory in the eyes of specialist historians. In concluding our discussion on these matters I must
fore, further discredited universal history

make two

confessions. First, prehistorians have been until recently rather loath to popularize their work. The lead given by Lubbock's Prehistoric Times in 1865

has not been followed until very recently. You may find this a strange statement of mine and may think that the railway bookstalls disprove it any day. It is
true that there are books on how the archaeologist works and the method and limitations of prehistory, but, to the best of my knowledge, there does not exist

a book setting out impartially, authoritatively, and the of still await a simply prehistory Europe. good book telling the public what went on in Europe be-

We

conquest and while such a gap exists can one blame the Toynbees of the world for displaying in prehistoric matters an abysmal ignorance which a first-year undergraduate
fore the in the literature

Roman

how

reading archaeology and anthropology would get rid of
in the

Michaelmas Term?

is only now in the last ten years a historical discipline and realbecoming consciously izing that its job is writing history and not classifying have a great backlog of scholarship to antiques.

Secondly, prehistory

We

make up here because
curators
still

PREHISTORY AND THE HISTORIANS 175 the excavators and museum
is

archaeology
it.

naturally tend to think that the work of virtually over when they have dealt with

There

is,

to

my

mind, a great danger here

the dan-

antiquarianism in archaeology. I am not in any way decrying excavation, which is the surgery of the fossil landscape and the essential prerequisite
ger of a

new

of any archaeology, nor museums, which are the Public Record Office of the prehistorian. But I am saying

we too often pay lip service to prehistoric archaeoland declare it to be the discipline of writing history ogy from archaeology, without perhaps writing any history ourselves. The description of artifacts was one stage in
that

the development of prehistory: the description of cultures was a second. A quarter of a century ago we could have Grahame Clark saying that "the science of ar-

chaeology might well be defined as the study of the past distribution of culture traits in time and space,"

and Gordon Chflde defining the task of
"largely devoted to isolating

prehistory as cultural groups of peo-

ple tracing their differentiations, wanderings and activities." These were true statements but prehistory

was then

still

in a stage

on the way to the

historical

study of prehistorical times. In his A Study of Archaeology, W. W. Taylor urges that the prehistorian is not

concerned with listing cultures but in studying culture, not in delimiting regional variations of little importance within a historical context but in studying the context as a whole. As Br^ndsted has said, "the goal of archaeology is the history of culture." And to that goal we now move slowly and surely.
that movement is represented Clark's Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Basis (1952). In this book the individual and unim-

A really notable stage in

by Grahame

176
is

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

portant varieties

of material culture are gone; gone too the microtomic specialization of industry and culture. Here we are looking at the development of man's

economic life in prehistoric Europe portrayed on a broad canvas. Here, at last, is prehistory as the historiansor at least the economic historians understand it And here at last is one pattern of the future
of prehistory.

VIII

Prehistory and the Public

In

The Times

of

London

for July 19, 1956, there ap-

peared a curious

little

an
is

intelligent subeditor,. "Judicial Archaeology." what the paragraph said:

paragraph amusingly headed by This

During the hearing in the Chancery Division at the Royal Courts of Justice of a war damage case concerned with buildings in the City of London, Mr. Justice Vaisey told Mr. Harold Williams Q.C. "There is nothing more interesting than the investigation of the history of old sites. This very building in which we are now sitting was built on the site of a very old farm, and the actual site of the weH which was used for watering the cattle is in
the building."
report did not tell us any more what Mr. Williams said in reply, nor is it relevant to our present purpose. What is relevant and interesting here is Mr. Justice Vaisey's first sentence: "There is nothing more interesting than the investigation of the history of old

The

177

178
sites/'

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY You must admit that this is a forthright and
I read this rather

sweeping declaration. A few days before
in

unusual report

had been reading a review in the Antiquaries Journal by my Cambridge colleague Miles C. Burkitt, who has been teaching prehistory in Cambridge for over thirty years and who in 1921 produced the first book in the English language to be called Prehistory some seventy years after Daniel Wilson first used that word. In this review Mr. Burkitt said, x "prehistory at present is popular/' and we cannot disagree with this brief alliterative doctrine. I have had for some while a close connection with archaeological broadcasting, and from the existence and continuance of archaeological programs on radio and T.V., from the large audiences they attract, from the most extensive and interesting correspondence they promote, it is
I

The Times

abundantly clear that prehistory is popular at present in Britain, that the public like prehistory, want preto history, and often prefer prehistoric archaeology moment in an Indeed other unguarded subjects. many
recently at a College Feast in

Cambridge

I

heard

Sir

Ian Jacob, then Director-General of the B.B.C., say that the two popular things on television seemed to

be archaeology and show-jumping.

You will all have heard of the German Kurt Marek who writes under the pseudonym C. W. Ceram and
the success of whose book Gods, Graves, and Scholars is by itself a proof of the widespread popularity of prehistoric archaeology. In his second book, translated into

English under the

title

of

The

Ceram
1

says:

"The

British were,

Secret of the Hittites, and are, fascinated by
in Eu-

archaeological questions as are

no other people

M. C.

BURETTT, Antiquaries Journal, 1956, 96.

179 and the number of books on archaeology pouring from our presses surely emphasizes this point of
2

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC

rope";

view.

Here surely is a curious state of affairs and it is worth analyzing and discussing. Why is prehistory, which was not in existence as an organized discipline or a branch of learning a hundred years ago, a popular
subject today? Is it due, as some have said, kindly or unkindly according to how you interpret their remarks and the adjectives they choose, to the existence of a

small group of people

who have found

it

easy

and

amusing and profitable to put archaeology across by the means which success in this great new educational and entertainment medium of television apparently
demands, namely panel games, documentary films, personality promotion? There is some truth in this and I would be guilty of a very false modesty if I tried to deny that radio programs like The Archaeologist, and
television

programs like Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?

and Buried Treasure had not contributed a great deal to the present popularity of prehistory. But the interest was there before: the agencies of mass communication have, as I believe they can do with any branch of and mullearning, widened the audience in quality in but it size; archaeology was an enormously tiplied attraction and prehistory was popular long before Marconi invented tie wireless and Sir George Barnes the
Third Programme. In the year (1956) when Penguin Books celebrated
their twenty-first anniversary

we tended

to think that

but this is popular education was a very recent thing; not so. The British Association for the Advancement
of Science was founded in 1830-1 and its primary and 2 C. W. CEKAM, The Secret of the Hittites (1956), 21.

l8o

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
was the dissemination
in the widest

principal purpose

In 1851, at its possible way of scientific knowledge. as a distinct admitted it Ethnology Ipswich meeting,
section, and during the period 1840-70 many contributions on prehistoric archaeology appeared in the

Geology and Ethnology

sections.

Thirty years before the foundation of the British Association, George Birkbeck of Glasgow had started
the
first

first

course of lectures which developed into the

Mechanics' Institute.

The London Mechanics'

In-

stitute

was founded by Birkbeck and Brougham in 1826 and in the second quarter of the nineteenth century these Mechanics' Institutes were very important in disseminating knowledge to the lower middle classes. G. M. Young has argued that the work of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and the Literary, Scientific and Mechanics' Institutes was mainly the Bible literary, and was concerned with, for example, and its commentaries, Milton, the economists, philosophers, and historians; science, he said, apart from phrenology, "for want of apparatus, did not much affect the workman: the culture of the self-educated man was still literary," 3 This may be true of physical science, but geology and the geological beginnings of archaeology were certainly finding their place in the work of these institutes. Let us take William Pengelly as an example. Pengelly was a private tutor at Torquay who was fascinated by archaeology; he had an overmastering passion for geoin 1846 logical research. He explored Kent's Cavern under the auspices of the Torquay Natural History Society, and later under the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He superintended the exca*G. KL YOUNG,
Victorian Engfcmd (1936), 74.

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
rations at

l8l

Windmill

Hill,

Brixham, from 1858 to 1859,

which convinced many people of the authenticity of the antiquity of man. He himself, as well as being an original worker, was most keen on popularizing his finds and his first success as an expositor was in the Torquay Mechanics' Institute. Wherever Pengelly lectured, whether to the Mechanics' Institute at Torquay, or to the Sciences Lecture Association in Glasgow, and

on whatever
the

subject

Somme,
and

the caves at

Kent's Cavern, the discoveries on Mentone his audiences were
(in three

large

enthusiastic.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica first appeared

volumes) between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh; and the Chambers's Encyclopaedia (completed in 1868) by the Edinburgh firm of W. R. Chambers, who had already published Chambers' s Journal since 1832, the Educational Course, and the Miscellany of Instructive and Amusing Tracts begun in 1845 and completed in twenty volumes "to furnish innocent entertainment mingled with correct information and instruction." In 1844 Robert Chambers's Vestiges of Creation had been published anonymously; in its way it was comparable to Wells's Outline of History published in 1920 and Carleton Coon's The Story of Man published in 1954. Special mention should be made here of T. D. Fosbrook's Encyclopaedia of Antiquities

and Elements of

Archaeology published in 1822, 1823, and 1825. At the same time as the Mechanics' Institutes and the Encyclopaedias were being born, the upper middle

were being instructed in geology and archaeology by the Spectator the Gentleman's Magazine, and the Athenaeum. John Mitford became editor of the Gentleman's Magazine in 1824 an^ ** a*1 *** and information and discus* quarian archaeological
classes

^^ ^^

182
sion. It

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
was thought to be quite natural in the middle

of the nineteenth century that a man interested in antiquarian pursuits should subscribe to the Society of
Antiquaries and to the Gentleman's Magazine. The Magazine itself published articles with a clear idea of

why and what 1829 we read:
It is

antiquarianism was: in the issue for

not the business of an Antiquary merely to decipher,

transcribe

and

to pile
.
. .

document upon document,

extract

upon

extract.

The

views than these:

it is

judicious Antiquary has higher ... to draw strong conclusions out
.
.

of minute facts which have escaped the general eye. . Without the exertion of a conjectural spirit, guided

by

sober caution, the Antiquary would indeed be little better than a heaper up of old bills, inventories, ballads, a dealer in verdigris and iron rust, or a collector of ...
bricks, stones, tiles

and

pipkins.

.

.

.

Especially notable in the Gentleman's

the Antiquarian Notes edited for Smith.

it

Magazine were by Charles Roach

In 1846 W. J. Thorns began a series of articles in the Athenaeum under the pseudonym of Ambrose

Merton, These

articles,

to
all

which he gave the

title

kinds of antiquarian subwere so jects; they popular and caused such a great deal of correspondence that Wentworth Dflke, then
editor and part proprietor of the paper, suggested to Thorns that he should start a special journal to deal popularly with the study of antiquities. The result was Notes and Queries, the first number of which appeared

"Folklore," dealt with

in

November

1849.

There was no doubt that the public were interested in prehistory and early man, whether their interest sprang from natural science and geology or from some-

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
thing which can only be described baldly

183

as the "ro-

mance

of excavation/' Certainly the romantic story of excavations in the Near East was a very clearly compulsive interest for the public at large. And, when one
looks back at the story of archaeological discovery

what splendid and

exciting things

had happened

Botta finding Nineveh, or thinking he had found it (he was really digging at Khorsabad Dur Shamikin, Sargon IPs city), Layard finding the palace of Sennacherib at Kuyunjik with
its

great library of cunei-

Rawlinson hanging over the cliff face at Behistun taking paper squeezes of the trilingual inscriptions engraved in 516 B.C. on the order of Darius
tablets,

form

Hystaspes, or that great moment in 1855 when the country boats and rafts, which were carrying downstream all the finds made by Oppert, Fresnel, and Thomas in south Mesopotamia and the two hundred

and

forty cases of material

from Khorsabad and from

Ashur-bani-paTs palace at Nineveh, were maliciously capsized by Arab brigands at Kurnah, at the head of

the Shatt-el-Arab.

Austen Henry Layard began digging at Nimrud in 1845 and he worked there from late in that year until mid-i847. Here he discovered the palaces subsequently
identified with the Assyrian kings Ashur-nasir-pal, Essarhaddon, and Shalmaneser III. It was from these ex-

Museum has obtained some treasuresthe huge winged bulls, priceless the sculptures of Ashur-nasir-pal, and the black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. In 1847 the Morning Post published dispatches from its correspondent who viscavations that the British

of

its

most

ited Layard's work at Nimrad. Layard thought he had identified Nineveh in the remains at Nimrud just as he Botta thought he had done at Khorsabad.

When

184

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

returned to England he published a book entitled The Monuments of Nineveh, but also a popular account of his excavations, Nineveh and Its Remains. This was in 1848 and 1849. This popular account surely the earliest and one of the most successful of archaeological

best-sellerswas very widely read. It became an instant success; in a letter Layard mentioned that eight thou-

sand copies were sold in one year, "which," he added "will place it side by side witib Mrs. RundelTs Coofeery" This book was published by John Murray, who had also published Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria and Fellows's First and Second Excursions in Asia Minor. A year or so later Murray's produced the
first series

for sale in the

of books for reading in the train: they were H, Smith had new bookstalls which

W.

been opening. Among the first half-dozen titles was an abridgment of Nineveh and Its Remains; the title was A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh. Could there be any clearer proof that just over a hundred years ago the public was very much interested in prehistory and archaeology? And in the next few decades other archaeological books were best-sellers. Lyell's Antiquity of Man "a trilogy on the antiquity of man, Ice and Darwin/* as a reviewer called it in The Saturday Review was first published in February 1863. A second edition was called for in the following April, and a third in the succeeding November. As William Pengelly declared, with joy, "three editions of a bulky scientific work in less than a few months." have already referred to the publication in 1865 of Prehistoric Times by Lord Avebury; this too was published by John Murray, was a good seller, and went on selling for half a century and more.

We

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
Of
course those were the days

185

when

the intellectual

world seemed very intimately concerned in the findings of geology, archaeology, and biology. Darwin's Origin of Species came out in 1859, and it was in the
following year that the exciting debate took place in the British Association meeting at Oxford when T. H.

Huxley, "Darwin's watchdog," as he once described
himself, sparred with the Bishop of Oxford, Soapy Sam Wilberforce. Huxley had described the Origin of Species as "a flash of light ... on a dark night." Bishop

Wilberforce, a man who, to quote William Irvine's recent joint biography of Darwin and Huxley, "was one of those men whose moral and intellectual fibers have

been permanently loosened by the early success and
4 applause of a distinguished undergraduate career," turned to Huxley and "begged to know, was it through

his grandfather or his grandmother that his descent from a monkey?" the remark

he claimed which made

Huxley slap the astonished knee of the scientist next him as he muttered, 'The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands," and to make the famous speech in which he said he would be "ashamed to be connected
to

with a

man who

used great

gifts to

obscure the truth."

was the following year and also at Oxford that Benjamin Disraeli said, 'What is the question now placed before society with a glib assurance the most astounding? The question is this Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels." The early public interest in geology and archaeology was very closely mixed up with religion and with the
it

And

discussion of preconceived religious notions. Archaeology and geology were popular for two directly opposed
reasons:
4

first,

they

seemed dangerous to accepted

W.

IRVINE, Apes, Angels, and Victorians (1955), 6.

l86

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

thought, therefore notorious, therefore interesting and news; but, secondly, they might lead to a new philoso-

phy of man, therefore famous, therefore also interesting and news. The result was the same from whatever point of view you started; geology and archaeology were interesting. "In the 1840$," said G. M, Young, "the religious world was divided into those who did not know what the geologists were saying and those who did not mind." By the 18605 it was divided into those who knew perfectly well what the geologists were saying and did mind, and those who also knew well and didn't
feared the undermining influence of and geology archaeology on the mind; Blomfield would not allow ladies to attend geological lectures at King's College, London. I think that it was this uncertainty as to whether archaeology was respectable or not, whether it was going to undermine faith or support it, that was directly responsible for one of the great moments of popular

mind.

Many

interest

in

archaeology in the iSyos.

The

story of

George Smith has often been told. He was a minor official in the Assyrian department of the British Museum and had particularly interested himself in the
transliteration of cuneiform. He published in 1871 The History of Ashur-bani-pd Translated from the Cuneiform Inscriptions. The next year, while working on the

broken clay tablets from the Nineveh Libraiy, he discovered a tablet which contained the statement that the ship rested on the mountains of Nizur, followed by the account of the sending forth of the dove, and its
finding no resting place and returning. "I saw at once," said George Smith, "that I had discovered a portion at
least of the

discovered further fragments of the

Chaldean account of the Deluge." He later same tablet and

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC l8j fragments of a duplicate text. From all this he was able
to piece together a very great deal of the Babylonian Flood story; and this account he read to the Society for
Biblical Archaeology in December 1872. It must have been an exciting moment coining as it did only just over a decade since Darwin and Huxley had been saying, or had seemed to be saying, that the Bible was not true, that man was descended from an ape, and that geology and archaeology were disposing of some cherished fundamentals of Victorian religious belief. Now, if one listened to George Smith, here was archaeology proving the truth of the Flood story; it was apparently most definitely on the side of the angels. No wonder that the interest in George Smith's discovery was enormous. A portion of the tablets recording the Deluge story was missing and ihe Daily Tele1,000 to equip an expedition led by graph offered George Smith to look for the missing fragment. The fact that Smith himself had never been on an excavation before and indeed never been in the Near East does not concern us here; nor is it our concern except in passing to record that by an amazing stroke of beginner's luck he found the missing fragment on the
fifth

day of his excavations.

What

concerns us here

is

that the press and the public had this archaeological interest in the seventies. George Smith published general accounts of his

work

in his Assyrian Discoveries

and
I

his

The Chaldean Account
to

of Genesis. This latter

book,
detail

like Layard's

to insist that in the great formative of archaeology the thirty years from 1840 to period there was an enormous popular interest in the

do not want but only

Nineveh, became a best-seller. dwell any longer on these points of

1870

subject This has continued to our time, fanned by ex-

l88

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

citements like Schliemann's discovery of Troy and Mycenae, Arthur Evans's discovery of Minoan Crete,

the discovery of the Sumerian and Indus civilizations, the realization that there had been a great Hittite civilization. Many of us can remember very clearly the
of first hearing of discoveries like that of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon at Tutankhamen's Tomb, Sir Leonard Woolley at Ur, or the discovery by four
thrill

schoolboys of the Upper Paleolithic painted and engraved cave of Lascaux. This interest has been fostered by various agencies of communication the Illustrated

London News,

for example, which, since 1900 under the editorship of Sir Brace Ingram, has given constantly a large amount of space to archaeology, and Antiquity,

a journal founded in 1925 deliberately to bring together the interested public and professional archaeologists,
and, in the last fifteen years, radio and television programs of the B.B.C. But it is a commonplace that to trace the evolution of a thing is not to explain or indeed understand it. has the public this interest in prehistory and is that there archaeology? In the first place the answer

Why
is

a widespread interest in history, and an interest in interest. prehistory is just an extension of this general GeofProfessor wrote is an historical "Man animal," his of sense a "with deep frey Banaclough recently,

and if he cannot integrate the past by a hisit by a history tory explicit and true, he wfll integrate 5 If exercise to false." and your inyou begin implicit terest in the past and want an authentic account of what happened in the past, there is no reason why

own

past,

or the your interest should stop with the Victorians Tudois or the Carolingians or the Romans or the An*

G. BAMACLOOGH,

History in a Changing World, 24-5.

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC

189

cient Britons or the Egyptians, and should not extend right back to the La T&ie Celts, the megalith-builders,

the

first

Neolithic fanners of Jericho and

Hasunna and

Jarmo, and the Upper and Altamira.

Paleolithic artists of Lascaux

Many

have argued that

we cannot make
by

the exerprehistory

cise of historical imagination required

and that once we go back beyond writing, the achievements and the peoples who made these achievements seem remote and almost subhuman. I do not think that this is right and I like to think that a story told by Professor Fleure in the preface to the last volume of THE CORRIDORS OF TIME is encouraging and typical. It is a story about his collaborator, H. J. E. Peake, who had
created a chronological series in the

Newbury Museum

designed to show how inadequate are our ordinary school history books with their few remarks on Caesar
Gallic War and the Anglo-Saxon invasion wipresult of this was ing out the native population. shown when a school inspector spoke of thing? that had happened "very long ago," and a Newbury child

and the

A

interrupted

lately, in the

him and said, "Oh, but La Ttee period." 6

that was quite

it

Apart from this general historical reason there aie, seems to me, four special reasons why prehistory is

especially interesting in itself to the general public. In the first place, and not to put too fine a point upon it,
origins are especially fascinating and the first of everything has a most special interest and attraction. From

our childhood we have always wanted to know who first thought of this, who first invented that, and when we have become older and faced with problems of
Of

H. J. E. PEAXE and H. J. FLEUEE, Times and THE CORRIDORS OF TIME (1956), lii.

Places,.

Volume

X

190
behavior,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY life, human relations, the relations

of states,

property, religion we have liked to turn to questions of origins, and to ask ourselves questions like "When was war invented?" "\\Tien did man believe in gods?"

"Were the first human beings promiscuous or was monogamy the rule?" "Is slavery a very old institution?" "Were there always kings and priests, was there a Golden Age from which modem man has fallen or have we advanced steadily from apes to Victorians,
from hand axes to Harwell?" That prehistory cannot
supply the answer to so many of these questions is beside the point; it is all the while closely concerned with origins, and allied to the interest in beginnings is

the sense of incredibly remote and ancient which comes from the study of prehistory. The first Pharaohs were
five

thousand years ago but the

artists

the walls of Niaux and Lascaux

who painted on may have lived twenty

hand

thousand years ago, and the makers of Abbevillian axes may have lived four hundred thousand years shall talk later about relevance, but here, ago.

We

when we contemplate
prehistoric

man

the long millennia during which flourished, we feel only too ready to

think that the history of the last five thousand years Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, and the Western world of Modem History is almost, from a long chronological point of view, insignificant. Origins,

and the great

remoteness and ancientness of prehistoric man certainly give a glamour, although, as we shall argue, probably a meretricious one, to prehistory. In the second place, prehistory is interesting to the
ordinary man in the street because its sources are so much nearer to the average person and his life than are

the sources on which the historian sensu stricto

relies.

The

historian

works on papers in the Public Record

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
Office, in

I<)1

our national

libraries, in college

and cathedral

muniment rooms, and

in the strong-rooms of country

houses, counfy archive offices, and in parish chests. The prehistorian works on material in museums, it is true,

and
(or

it is

also true that this material

is

often as remote

more remote) from the general public as documents in record offices; but often, owing to the enlightened policies of museum curators and committees and to enlightened schemes of display, very accessible. The prehistorian also works on material which he finds
by that painstaking surgery of the landscape which we call excavation. He works, also, on field monuments which are visible to all stone circles, lynchets, barrows, megalithic tombs, hut circles, hill forts these things, the cultural fossils of prehistory which are part of our present-day cultural landscape the dead, nonfunctional part of the landscape. But, though dead and nonfunctional, they are, unlike the dead documents in
a cathedral
library, available

always for us to

see,

con-

stant reminders of prehistory as we go to work or drive on holiday. They are marked on our Ordnance Survey

maps with an
fashion which

is

exemplar}- zeal and thoroughness in a the envy of most European countries;

there are even special maps of Ancient Britain so that these prehistoric sites should not escape us and so that

they should indeed become the objects of our holiday planning. And if we are bored with them there are

who want to see Stonehenge and who will not let their questions go unanswered when we drive them past Maiden Castle or Hetty Pegler's Tump and they say: "What is that? How old? Why was it built, and by whom?"
always our children Hadrian's Wall and

Because of

its

ish landscape, prehistory

strong surviving component in the Britis ever very much with us. I

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
sometimes wonder whether the
field

differential survival of

monuments in different countries has not had something to do with the differential development of
public interest in prehistory in those countries. In France, for example, where in the vineyard-crowded areas of Languedoc and Gascony few field monuments
survive, or where in the intensely cultivated France most things have been plowed away, it
lie
is

de not

surprising that in those areas interest in prehistory is as little as it is great in the southern Morbihan, where almost every walk must bring one to a megalithic tomb.

But
bury

I digress:

my

point here

is

a very simple one.

A

drive from
Hill,

Marlborough to Devizes passes barrows, SflAveboxy, Wansdyke. In the face of these

constant challenges in the surrounding landscape it would indeed be a strange man who did not, however
grudgingly, ask some questions and demand swers, even if at first he was satisfied with

some

an-

simple an-

swers like Druids and Ancient Britons and at last he turned to Atlantis and Old Straight Tracks.
it is not only the sources of prehistoric archaeolthat ogy appeal to the general public. Its methods are also of great interest; the and

But

immediacy

accessibility

of the sources are equaled in general interest by the and fascination of archaeological method uniqueness and technique. Air photography, excavation, Carbon-i4 analysis, the delicate operation of piecing together broken pottery, and the restoration of a corroded and

decayed metal object, the study of bodies found in peatbogs, the fact that we can obtain historical data

by

analyzing the contents of a prehistoric stomach all these and many other things have a special fascination by the very remoteness and intriguing nature of the techniques themselves. Archaeological research has a

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC

193

great deal of the nature of detective work in it; indeed, so, of course, has all research, but it is not often, as in

archaeology, that the nonspecialist can follow all the stages and understand all the moves in this game of
research and detection. The great researches in the natural and physical sciences are also full of excitement, but they are often much harder to follow and

involve a knowledge of complicated processes and unlaboratory techniques which the ordinary reader does not possess and cannot easily secure. And,
familiar

of course, these techniques and methods used by the archaeologist are, in the most strict sense of the word, scientific. Here perhaps, as Angus Wilson has pointed
out, lies

one of the
offers.

satisfactions

which

prehistoric ar-

chaeology
calls

"A humane

study that increasingly

upon scientific techniques," he wrote, "offers, in however limited a sphere, a resolution of the ominous dichotomy between man's two intellectual ap7

proaches."
I

have already referred to the romance of archaeol-

ogy and to how the ordinary member of the public warms to the stories of adventure, of luck, and of chance in which the chronicle of archaeology abounds. Every undergraduate, if not every schoolboy, knows how the great painted caves of Lascaux in the Dordogne were discovered by chance by four schoolboys out rabbiting in September 1940 in the lightly-wooded hills near the village of Montignac-sur-V&re (now Mon-

tignac-Lascaux, such is the fame of prehistory). The fine gold ornament usually known as the Grunty Fen tore it is made of a square-section bar of gpld grooved

in length

to form four leaves, and then twisted, and is four feet was found by accident by a peat-digger
'Observer, September 30, 1956.

194
working

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
in the fen near

Cambridge. Stories like the

finding of Lascaux and the finding of the Grunty Fen tore are legion; indeed it might be said with justice that a very great number of archaeological finds are

made by
fact that

chance. This aspect of chance discovery, the on holiday or when digging in one's garden

or excavating sewer trenches one may come across something which is of archaeological interest keeps the
ordinary person near to archaeology and warms him to prehistory in a way which I do not think he can be

wanned towards

one may find a valuable manuscript while digging in one's back garden, but it is quite possible that one may find a hand axe or a palstave. There are, then, four reasons, as I see it, why prehistory at present is popular and appeals to people even more than ordinary history does its remoteness and
concern with origins, its immediacy as a challenging part of our landscape, the fascination of its archaeologits

history constructed from sources. After all it is extremely unlikely that

written

ical methods and techniques, and the romance and chance of discovery. But these are surely only reasons for intensifying an interest in prehistory. The basic in-

terest in prehistory as in history is

because

we want

to

know what happened

in the past and because we want re-created for us the historical contexts of prehistory.

But is finding out what happened in the past sufficient reason for a study of prehistory, as of history, sufficient reason for the maintenance of teachers and
researchers into prehistory, as into history? Are prehistorians then no more than chroniclers, or do they study

the past as some explanation of the present and some guide to the future? This is an issue that has been debated a very great deal by historians in the
strict

sense

195 and epigraphical. Professor T. F. Tout, for example, had no doubt that chronicle was the aim: "We investigate the past," he wrote, "not to deduce practical political lessons but to find out what really happened." 8 Others have been equally forceful on the other side: "We seek " the end to know 'what really happened/ says Profesof scholars whose main sources are
literary

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC

sor Geoffrey Banaclough, "in order to assess its bearing and meaning for us. For it is simply not true that

the past (as

is

must

say at once that I

so often stated) exists for itself." 9 I am in agreement with Bar-

we do not all the time study the past for even the remote prehistoric past can be studnot itself, ied in complete detachment* must study it with an
raclough;

We

eye on

its

Now
far

I

relevance to ourselves at the present day. know that here we enter on very debatable

ground. There are those who say that prehistory is so away from us that it can have no relevance at all

to the present, that the red deer hunters of Seamer, the flint-miners of Spiennes, and the metal-workers of
Hallstatt have nothing to tell us who live so many centuries later and in such a different state of material

economy and culture. This is a position maintained by some who are prepared to admit that modem history is
relevant to the present even using modem history in the widest sense of everything that happened since the

of Constantinople. Scholars have argued that prehistory is so limited by its methods and its absence of
fall

literary sources

its

reliance

on the
little

of the past

that

it

can have
its

surviving remains relevance to us any-

way;
8

it is

argued that

judgments must be so sub-

T. F. Tour, Chapters in the Admfrrisfraffve History of MediaeI

val England,

(1920), 7.
in a

G. BARRACLOUGH, History

Changing WorW, 23.

196
jective.

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
To

quote Barraclough again: "The history we read though based on facts is, strictly speaking, not factual at all, but a series of accepted judgements." 10 If this is so for history proper how much more is it so

for prehistory or history improper as it is sometimes cynically called. In prehistory, as we have seen in these
lectures,

we are always moving from one set of judgments to another, and what is a fact turns out to be what is currently accepted. In all this is there any historical certainty, and do prehistorians really know what is going on in the past? If they really are unsure of what happened in the prehistoric past, what is the point of arguing the relevance of what is uncertain, and

anyway, so long ago, to the present?

That is how one group speaks and they can argue a case. Another group of people thinks it unwise and even improper to think about the relevance of prehistory to the present It is the same group of people which does not want prehistory popularized or vulgarizedbut here the issue is one of interpretation not popularization. The same problem faces the historian all the time. It is often said that he should not interpret, should

not assess the relevance of what he thinks But he is the person best qualihappened fied to do so, and if he does not, then the amateurs
in the past

publicists and propagandists will be left in possession of the field. "If the accurate, judicious, and 7 highly trained fail to draw the lessons of history/

and

V. Wedgwood, "the unscrupulous and undo it for them." ll It must surely be one of the main tasks of the prehistorian to interpret and to assess the contemporary relevance of the facts which
writes C.
qualified wfll

IbkL,i 4
.

.

V. WEDGWOOD, Velvet

Studies (1946), 156,

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
self

the archaeological researches of his colleagues and himproduce. This is, in my view, one of the main

spheres in which the idea of prehistory has not yet fulfilled itself. It cannot be pretended tfiat there is anything approaching a philosophy of prehistory; yet it is
precisely in this sphere of the philosophical relevance of prehistory to ourselves that prehistory may have most to contribute to the public.

Let us consider very briefly some of these underlying relevancies, and I say very briefly because it has been my concern in these lectures not to give you my
idea of the perspective of prehistory but to discuss with you how the idea of prehistoiy has developed and changed. I think the first and most overwhelming relevancy is the universality of time and space in early human history. For so long we have thought in the Western world that we were the heirs of the Greek and Roman civilizations as they were of the civilizations of Crete, Mesopotamia, and Egypt; now we see, quite apart from the historians who are insisting very rightly that Eastern Europe and Russia are as much the
heirs of the classical civilization of the Mediterranean

as the West, and that any evaluation of European civilization which forgets the contribution of the Arabs
forgets a great deal, that Greece and Rome, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt are only some elements in the long

and complicated story of the development of man from the Paleolithic "savagery" that produced Altamira and Lascaux to the present day. The cities of Mohenjo-

Daro and Harappa in Pakistan, of Anyang in China, of Chich&i-Itza and Palenque in Central America are as relevant to our over-all picture of the human past as
are

Ur and

Athens.

Whether we be Americans, Rus-

sians, Indians, or Chinese,

we

share a universal

human

198

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

do not pretend, or imagine, that a recognition of this fact will alter present-day differences but if people really had an awareness of human
historical heritage* I

history

it

should put present-day differences in a

differ-

ent perspective and one that made for tolerance. It is the length of the perspective of prehistory which more than any one thing is to me the contribution of
prehistory to
sentials.

modern thought. Let us recollect its esMan, as a sentient upright-walking, talking, tool-making animal came into existence some three-

quarters to two-thirds of a million years ago. After millennia of brutish life with little surviving material

equipment, and a spiritual and moral equipment at which we can only guess, we find him at the end of the Ice Age not only a superb craftsman in flintworic as
witness, for example, Solutrean laurel leaves but an artist, making beautiful spear-throwers, sculpturing

horses

shelter houses

and human beings on the walls of his rockand penetrating into the dark depths of deep caves to establish there cult-shrines, where in front of engravings and paintings and even models of

animals, magico-religious rites were carried out. And all this art was at least fifteen thousand years ago and
possibly as early as thirty thousand years. Somewhere, perhaps at ten thousand years B.C., we find man in some localities in the Near East discovering how to
cultivate

wheat and barley: agriculture has begun

a discovery that may have been made independently in India and South China and as we know now appears certainly to have been made independently in America. At the same time or later, in the same area

of the Near East or in neighboring areas, animals were domesticated, and from these twin bases of cultivation and domestication the peasant village communities of

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
the Old and
single
basis

199
existence

New Worlds came into existence. From the
of

domestication

came

into

the

nomad

societies of Arabia,

North

Africa,

and Cen-

tral Asia.

as we look into the record of prehissee the settled peasant village communities in the Near East, in India and China, and in Central

Very gradually

tory

we

America develop and prosper so that large communities appear which are towns or cities and which have complex trade relationships and a specialization of labor, which can communicate by writing, and have priests and kings or chiefs; to these organizations we must be prepared, in any objective terminology, to give
the

name

civilization.

perhaps most dramatic as we reflect on this long process is the length of time which the earlier stages have taken. No one suggests that the so-called
is

What

the change to a food-producing and domesticationon based cultivation economy started anywhere in the world before ten to twelve
Neolithic revolution

thousand years ago, and until recently this date would have been given as nearer six to seven thousand years ago. Yet man himself man by definition as homo sapiens was in existence six hundred thousand years as food-producers with a life built on villages ago. and cities have only been in existence for one-sixtieth of man's time on earth. Do these figures of thousands of years mean anything to you? Think of the face of a clock, and of minute hand going round for an hour. Fifty-nine minutes of that hour represents man the

We

food-gatherer, man in the stage of Paleolithic savagery, man in the Old Stone Age. In the last minute but one

we

see

him

Niaux, but

it is

painting at Lascaux and Altamira and only at the beginning of the last mm-

2OO
ute that

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
we
see

him gaming

control over the cultiva-

tion of grain and the domestication of animals it is only then that the Neolithic Revolution takes place,

and only in the last half-minute that the social, material, and cultural changes we call civilization occur. Egypt, Sumeria, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Buddhism, the pre-Columbian civilizations of America all these have occurred in that last half-minute of man's long life on earth. This does not mean that they are
irrelevant:
relative

but

it

does mean, at
is less.

least to

me, that

their

the philosophy which George Borrow put into a sentence in Lavengro: "There's night and day . . . sun, moon and

importance

You remember

stars

.

.

.

likewise a
it is

but to

me

wind on the heath, brother." True, a wind that blows from ancient, dimly

apprehended, prehistoric heaths, and that tells us that man is very old, and that the present with its ideological conflicts, its threats of destruction

warfare,

by nuclear on the one hand, and by overpopulation, on the other, is not necessarily the end of existence, an

is already sixty times as long as the beof ginnings agriculture and nearly a hundred times as as the inventions of writing and formalized relilong

existence that

gions. I think there is a relevance to present thought in our knowledge of prehistory even if the philosophical elements of it are only roughly and

crudely thought

out as yet
In his Modern Historians and the Study of History, a book of essays published in 1955, Professor F. M. Powicke says: *The function of history is not to trace back the institutions and ways of thought which have
survived as though
ures that have

we were

at the

end and climax of
lost,

history. It is at least as

important to retrieve the treas-

been dropped on the way and

PREHISTORY AND THE PUBLIC
which
I
its
if

2O1

think

would enrich our civilization." Here and real justification of prehistory, relevance to us, and the reason why it has a popular
restored
is

the

final

interest.

The

real justification is

not in

origins, or tech-

niques, or in perspective, but in pleasure; the pleasure of prehistory is in the recovery of the treasures of man's

have been dropped on the way missing from lie record of the prehistoric past, much survives of its achievement in the visual arts, and we can today admire and enjoy the beauty, for example, of the leaping cows at Lascaux,
prehistoric past that

and

lost.

Whatever

is

the brilliant simplicity and purity of line of the stylized Cycladic figurines (Plate VIII), the assured craftsmanship of the owls and bulls of the BrS cauldron, the architectural master}7 of the builders of Stonehenge. may find Upper Paleolithic art or the art of the early

We

Jerichoans
in spirit

skulls, very

features in clay onto human remote in time, but they are not remote or aesthetic understanding, achievement or

who molded

inspiration. It is the transcendental character of the visual arts that emerges so clearly and perhaps unex-

may not be pectedly from the study of prehistory. able to think ourselves back into the rock-shelters of
Upper
the
Paleolithic

We

man

or,

perhaps fortunately, into

and stench that must have existed in the houses at Skara Brae and Little Woodbury, but the artistic achievements of prehistory require no effort of
filth

the imagination in their appreciation. The art of preman is part of the universal heritage of manand it is sad that as yet it occupies only a small kind,
historic

part in the formal histories of art. These usually begin with a few reproductions of Upper Paleolithic art and then turn hastily to the art of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations. Admittedly, for a fuller under-

202

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

standing of prehistoric art, we need to know something of the chronological structure of prehistory and the culture of the varying societies that produced the art;

we

should have an idea of prehistory

if

we

are to see

prehistoric art in its chronological
tive.

and cultural perspec-

But even without that we can enjoy the artistic man. The treasures of prehistory do enrich our own civilization, and it is the excitement of the discover}- and study and appreciation of the enrichment which is to me the main component of the idea of prehistory which we have at the present
creations of prehistoric

dav.

Books

for Further

Reading

No authoritative and definitive history of archaeology and prehistory has as yet been published. Adolf Michaelis, A Century of Archaeological Discoveries (Lonlands,

don, 1908) deals with discovery, mainly in classical up to the beginning of the twentieth century. This is a translation of his Die archaologischen Entdeckungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig,

1906); and Friedrich von Oppeln-Bronikowskfs Die archaologischen Entdeckungen irn 20. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1931) takes the story on another thirty years.

Hundred Years of Archaeology (London, 1950) dealt in summary form mainly with the development of prehistoric archaeology in the period 18401940.

My own

For more popular accounts of the history of archaeology see W. H. Boulton, The Romance of Archaeology (London, n.d.), C. W. Ceram, Gods, Graves, and
Scholars

(New

York, 1951), and

The March

of Ar-

203

204
chaeology

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
(New
York, 1958).
I

do not repeat here the

bibliographical details given in

my Hundred

Years of

Archaeology, but special mention must be made of H. J. E. Peake, The Study of Prehistoric Times (Huxley

Memorial Lecture
i.

for 1940),

/.

R. Anthrop.

Inst. t

1940,

The story of Mesopotamian archaeology is well told in Seton Lloyd's Foundations in the Dust (London,
1947); see also E. A.

W. Budge, The Rise and Progress

of Assyriology (London, 1925); and the story of Aegean archaeology in Sir John Myres, The Cretan Labyrinth (Huxley Memorial Lecture for 1933), /. R. Anthrop. general story of archaeology of lost cities can be read in through the discovery La Resurrection des VUles Mortes Marcel Brion's
Inst.,

1933,

269.

The

more popularly in Hermann and Vanished Cities (New York, 1958) Georg Schreiber, and Leonard Cottrell's Lost Cities (New York, 1958), Geoffrey Bibby's The Testimony of the Spade (New York, 1956} deals with the development of European prehistory, and is especially good on Northern archaeology; Colin Simard's Decowerte Archgologfaue de la
(Paris,

1948), and

France (Paris, 1955) deals mainly with the story of French Paleolithic discovery, as does the Abbe Breufl's The Discovery of the Antiquity of Man: Some of the "Evidence (being the Huxley Memorial Lecture for 1941, delivered in 1946), J. R. Anthrop. Inst^ 1945, 21. A fuller account on tie development of French archaeology is in R. Lantier, "Un Siecle d'Archologie Protohistorique" in Congr& Arch4ologique de France, 1935.

The development
scribed in

of

German

archaeology

is

well de-

H. Eggers, Einfuhrung in die VorgeJ. schichte (Munich, 1959)For British archaeology see Sir Thomas Kendrick's

BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING

205

The Druids (London, 1927); British Antiquity (London, 1950); and 'The British Museum and British
Antiquities/
in Antiquity, 1954, 132; H. B. Walters, English Antiquaries of the i6th, ijth and i8th Centuries (London, 1934); and Stuart Piggott's Wil7

The

liam Stukeley (Oxford, 1950); and the following
ticles

ar-

and

lectures:

"Prehistory

and the Romantic

Movement," Antiquity, 1937, 31; 'The Sources of Geoffrey of Monmouth," Antiquity, 1941, 269 and 305; "Stukeley, Avebuiy and the Druids," Antiquity, 1935, 22; 'The Ancestors of Jonathan Oldbuck," Antiquity, 1955, 150; "William Camden and the Britannia"
(Reckitt Archaeological Lecture for 1951), Proc. Brtt. Acad., XXXVII, 199; "Antiquarian Thought in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" in Levi Fox,
ed., English Historical Scholarship in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London, Oxford University

Press for the

Dugdale Society, 1956).

Valuable for the topographical aspects of the early antiquaries is E. G. R. Taylor, Tudor Geography (London, 1930), and Late Tudor and Stuart Geography

(London, 1934). Dr. Joan Evans's

A

History of the 1956), mirrors

Society of Antiquaries of London (London, and her Time and Chance (London, 1943) are

of British archaeology seen from the standpoint of one Society and one family. Also may be consulted E. Moir,

"The English

Antiquaries," History Today, 1958, 781,

and G. E. Daniel,

"Who

Are the Welsh?" (Rhys Me-

morial Lecture for 1954), ^TOC- Brit. Acad., XL, 145. Stanley Casson, The Discovery of Man (London, 1939) is a general survey of the development of ar-

chaeology and anthropology. For the history of anthropology see A. G. Haddon and A. H. Quiggin,
History of Anthropology (London, 1934), T. K. Penni-

206
man's

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY

A Hundred Years of Anthropology, 2nd ed.( Lon-

don, 1952), and R. H. Lowie, The History of Ethnomore popular logical Theory (New York, 1937). is to be found in H. R. From survey Hays, Ape to An-

A

gel

(New

York, 1958).

For the history of geology see Sir Archibald Geikie, Founders of Geology, 2nd ed. (London, 1905), A. C. Ramsay, Passages in the History of Geology (London, 1848 and 1849), H. B. Woodward, History of Geology
(London, n.d.) and History of the Geological Society London (London, 1907). The impact of scientific discoveries upon religious beliefs in the decades before Darwin is well told in C. C. Gillispie's Genesis and Geology (Volume LVIII of the HARVARD HISTORICAL STUDIES, 1951, reprinted as a Harper Torchbook, New York, 1959), with an exof
cellent bibliography. Invaluable here also
is

Andrew D.

History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York, 1896}. For books about individual geologists see T. G. Bonney,

White,

A

Charles LyeU and Modern Geology (London, 1901), Mrs. Elizabeth Oke Buckland Gordon's The Life and

Correspondence of William Buckland (London, 1894), Katherine M. LyelTs Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles LyeU (London, 1881), P. Chalmers Mitchell,

Thomas Henry Hwdey (London,
Boucher de Perfhes
le$

1913), A. Ledieu,

(Paris, 1885), an(* L. Aufrere, Essed sur les premieres d&couvertes de Boucher de Perthes et

Oiigtnes de rArcheologje Primitive (1838-1844) (Paris, 1936).

For special subjects, A. O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), and some of the essays in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians (foreword H. Grisewood, London, 1949) are germane

BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING 2OJ to the discussion. The idea of progress itself was studied by J. B. Bury in his The Idea of Progress (London,
1920). See also this same author's Darwin and Science (London, 1909).

Modern

On Elliot Smith see Warren R. Dawson, ed., Sir Grafton Elliot Smith: A Biographical Record by His
of Lowie's Colleagues (London, 1938) and Chapter History of Ethnological Theory. Among recent works on Darwinism and evolution and the centenary of the
antiquity of

X

man

see Loren Eiseley, Darwin's

Century

A

York, 1958), William Irvine, Apes, Angels, and Victorians (New York, 1955), and S. A. Barnett, ed., Century of Darwin (Cambridge, Mass., 1958). Also

(New

of interest here

J.

W.

Judd,

The Coming

of Evolution

(Cambridge, Eng., 1910), and Francis C. Haber,

The

Age of the World: Moses to Darwin
For the work of individual

(Baltimore, 1959) -

archaelogists see Sir

Leon-

ard Woolley, Spadework (London, 1953), O. G. S. Crawford, Said and Done (London, 1955), Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Still Digging (London, 1955), and Ronald Clark, Sir Mortimer Wheeler (London, 1960); E.

A. Wallis Budge, By
Sir

NUe and
Seventy

Flinders

Petrie,

Tigris (London, 1920), Ifears of Archaeology

(London, 1931), Emfl Ludwig, Scfdiemann: The Story of a Goldseeker (London, 1931), Robert Payne, The Gold of Troy (New York, 1958), J. Beddoe, Memories of Eighty 'Years (London, 1910), C. Breasted, Pioneer to the Past The Story of James Henry Breasted, Archaeologist (New York, 1943), Sir E. Harrison, Harrison of Ightham (London, 1928), A. H. Layard, Autobiogjraphy

and

Letters

(London, 1903), L.

S.

B.

Leakey, White African (London, 1937), H. Pengelly, A Memoir of "William Pengetty (London, 1897).

On

the

modem methods and

techniques of archae-

208
ology and

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
for

an analysis of the methodology of pre-

history, consult Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Archaeology from 'the Earth (Oxford, 1954), O. G, S. Crawford,

(London, 1921), V. Gordon Childe, Short Introduction to Archaeology (London, 1956), and Piecing Together the Past (London, 1956), J. G.

Man and His Past

A

D. Clark, Archaeology and Society, ^rd ed. (London, 1957), Stuart Piggott, Approach to Archaeology (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), Sigfned De Laet, Archaeology and Its Problems (London, 1957), R. J. C. Atkinson, Field Archaeology^ 2nd ed. (London, 1954), O. G. S. Crawford, Archaeology in the Field (London, 1953), Fr. Behn, Vor- und Friihgeschichte (Wiesbaden, 1948), P. de Palol, Arqueologia.: Propositos y Metodos (Valladolid, 1958), G. R. Wffley and P. Phillips, Method and Theory in American Archaeology (Chicago, 1958), W. W. Taylor, A Study of Archaeology (American Anth. Ass., Mem. 69, Menasha, 1948). For a special treatment of certain problems, see V. Gordon Childe, Social Evolution (London, 1951) and for an
attempt to set prehistory into a general perspective, see Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of

Man

(New

York, 1959).

Index

Abbeville

flints,

53, 54, 55
Piefais-

Aberciomby Chair of
toric Archaeology,

18
as
ar-

Ancient Society; 79 Ancient Wiltshire, 23 Annals of the Ancient and

Aerial

reconnaissance,

New

Testaments, 24
.

chaeological technique, Africa, 126, 199

96

Anthropology 106
9

. . ,

Tylor's, 79,

Aldrovandi, UUsses, 47 Altamira cave art, 69, 72, 199 American cultural origins, 12225, 126

Antiquaries Journal, 178 Antiquit^s Ceitiques et Anted&uviennes, 53

Anahuac or Mexico and the
Mexicans, 105

Antiqui&s Etrusques, Greques, et Ronuxmes, 20
Antiquities^ collectors of, 202i;as material for history, 22-

Anau

excavations, 84, 85 Ancient Britain find the Invasions of Julius Caesar, 77,

23; studies of, 19-20, 22-23 Antiquities of KiRmackump-

100 Ancient Egyptians, The, 109,

no
. .

Ancient
.

History

of

Ireland

shaugh, 31 Antiquity (journal), 188 Antiquity of Man, 184 Apes and Men, 121
Arabia, 199

,

30

Ancient Hunters, 158 Ancient Metaphysics, 33

Archaeologia

(journal),

21,

32, 39, 48-49,

100

209

21O
history,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
Beaker culture, 99, zoi, 131,
135, 146, 156 Beauvais, Vincent of,

Archaeological material of pre-

17

Archaeologist (radio program),

24

*79
Archaeology, distinguished

Bede, Venerable, 24 Belgae, 100, 101
Benedict, Ruth, quoted, 136

from prehistory, 18-19
Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, 13, 59 Archaeology Wales, 101

Bering

Straits,

124

Biome

of early

man, 155

m

Engted and

Birbeck, George, 180

Archaeology in the Field, 93 Archaeology of the Cambridge
Region, 94, 168

BlackweH, Thomas, 33, 34 Bochart, Samuel, 27
Boghazkeui, 84 Borrow, George, quoted, 200
Boulainvflliers,

Arikamedu excavations, 91 Arundel, Earl of, 20
Aryan languages, 130 Ashmolean Museum, 20, 29, 48 Ashur excavations, 145
Ashur-bani-pal, 183
Ashur-nasir-pal,

Comte de, 137

Bra cauldron, 201 Brecon Gaer, 91
Breufl, Abbe", 72,

97

Bridgewater Treatises, 39, 40,
Britain, antiquarian studies of,

183

19-20;
of,

Norman

Conquest

Asia, Central, 199

26131; prehistory of,

Asia, Southwest,

80

Assyrian Discoveries, 187 Athenaeum, 181, 182
Atlantis, cult of, 115,

36, i34> *35 Britain and the British Seas,

169
Britannia, Camden's,

124

144
fllustrata,

Aubrey, John, 28, 94, 95, 152, 153; quoted, 28, 29

Britannia
2

Antiqua

Avebury, 29
Aylesford, 100, 101

British Antiquity, 26 British Association for the

1

Aztecs, 123

Advancement of Science, 17980 British Museum, 59, 183, 186
Brittany, 101, 119, 131

Babylon, 49 Bagford, John, 49

Bronze Age, 58, 66, 75, 76,
77, 97, 100, 116, 130, 134,

Balme, Edward, 22
Banaclough, Geoffrey, quoted, 171, 172, 188, 195, 196

161

Bronze Age, Chflde's, 1 17 Browne, Thomas, quoted, 38,

Basque language, 132 Bastian, Adolf, 107

70 Buckingham, Duke

of,

20

INDEX
Buckland, Miss A. W., 107-08,

211
of,

China, 81; prehistory
125, 198, 199
Christianity,

85,

"7> *39
Buckland, William, 42-43, 45,
53 5 6 Burgon, John William, 61 Burkitt, Miles, 99, 117, 178
52

early

history

dated by, 24-25, 37, 38, 39,
62; see also Mosaic chronol-

ogy
Christy, Henry, 71, 105

Burnett,

James (Lord Monboddo), 33, 34, 78
H.,

Butterfield,

quoted,

171-

Clark,

Clapham, Alfred, 18 Grahame, 91,

159;

7*
Caerleon, 91 Cambridge History of India, 85 Camden, Wflliam, 19, 20, 144

quoted, 146, 175 Cluver, Philip, 144
Cocherel, megalithic

tomb

at,

48
Coffey, George, 31 Cole, William, 21
Collective

Carbon-i4 dating, 63, 92, 96, 124, 126, 154 Carnarvon, Lord, 85 Cartaflhac, Emile, 73 Carter, Howard, 85 Casson, Stanley, quoted, 35
Catastrophists, 40, 41, 43, 44,

Tomb

Builders, 101

Conybeare, W. D., 42, 44, 45 Coon, Carleton S., 171, 172,
181; quoted, 123 Copan, 70, 80 Corridors of Time, Thef 121,

53>5 6 Catherwood, Frederick, 80 Cave-Hunting, 82
Celtic

189 Cranborne Chase excavations,

89
131,

languages,

130,

Crawford, O. G.

S.,

93, 94,

132

95, 100, 168, 169

Ceram, C. W., 178 Chabot cave art, 72 Chain of Being, concept

Cremation, prehistoric, 134 Crete, 100
of,

Crisis

in Bourgeois Archaeol-

34*39
Chaldean Account of Genesis,

ogy, The, 148

Cunnington, William, 23, 88
Curie, James, 90 Curtius, Ernst, 145

187
Chamberlain, Houston
art, 139,

Stew-

140, 141

Custom

of Couvade,

no

Charles

I,

20
80
17, 18, 67, 103, 116, 117,

Cuvier, Georges, 41, 42

Chichen

Itzd,

Cycladic figurines, 201

Chflde, Gordon,

99, 101, Il8, 120, 121, 122, 147-48,

Daniel,

G.

162, 171; quoted, 163, 175 Children of Ihe Sun, The, 111

Danube

E., 5811. in Prehistory,

117

Dartmoor, 167

212
185, 187

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
Elephants

Darwin, Charles, 40, 44, 105,

and
of

Ethnologists,

no
Encyclopedia
Antiquities

Dawkins, Boyd, 83

Dawn

European Ctvuigation, 99, 102, 116, 117 Dawson, Warren, 104, 109,
of

and Elements of ArchaeolEngels,
ogy, 181 Friedrich,

147,

148,

no
De Rebus
AUrionicis Britanni-

149, 161

Engihoul caves, 52
Ericsson, Leif, 123

cus atque AngEcw, 27 De Rerum Natura, 23

Denmark,

prehistory

of,

36,

Eridu, 85
Esper, Johann Friedrich,

65, 75, 76, 118, 120, 133,

*34 Devon, South, 50, 54, 58 Diffusion of Culture, 110
Diffusionism,

quoted, 51 Essarhaddon, 183 Essay on the Inequality
118,

of

106,

no,

Human

Races, 137, 138

126 119-20, 121, 122,
Dflke,

Ethnography, 160

Wentworth, 182
44
Benjamin,
quoted,

Dfluvialists, 40, 41, 42, 43,

Etruscans, 75 Evans, Arthur, 84, 100

Disraeli,

185
Distribution maps, 95, 90 Dolmens, in Portugal, 120

Evans, Joan, 50, 88 Evans, John, 53, quoted, 54, 55

55,

87;

Evolution, and diffusion, 107,
117, 121 Evolution of the Dragon, 112

Douglas, James, 22, 23 Druids, 28, 29, 102, 115

no,

Drych y Pnf Qesoedd, 27 Dugrfak, William, 47, 48
Early Bronze Age, 101, 135,

EymetoinenOf 31
Falconer,

Hugh, 53
173

167
Early Iron Age, 58, 77, 100, 101, 116, 132
Eggers,

Fertile Crescent, 121,

Field archaeology, 94, 95 Field Archaeology as Illustrated

58*. Egypt, 70, So, 81, 88, 108, and British 125, 173, 201; 102, 115; 30, 31, prehistory,

H. J^

by Hampshire, 94
J.,

Fleure,

H.

121, 122, 168,

169, 189 Flints, see Stone tools

and hyperdiffusionism, 10914,

Fluorine analysis, 154

115,

mids

pyraof, see Pyramids; races

119,

121;

44 Font de Gaume cave
Fluvialists, 41,

art,

72,

73
Food-vessel culture, 99, 101

INDEX
Foote, Samuel, 22 Ford Lectures (Oxford), 16 Formation de la Nation Frangcdse,

213

Gladstone,

W.

E., 13, 65, 66,

68, 83; quoted, 65-66

Goafs Hole Cave, 52
Gobineau,

96

Comte

de,

137,

Fosbrook, T. D., 181 Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, The, 13940, 141

138; quoted, 139 Gods, Graves, and

Scholars,

178
Grant, Madison, 141, 142 Gray's Inn Lane, 49 Great Chain of Being, concept
of,

Four Monarchy System, 15, 25
Fox, Cyril, 90, 93, 94,
168,

169
Fox,
P. Bushe, 90 France, cave art in, 71, 72, 73;
J.

3*

39
pre-

Greeks, 80; and British
history,

26

deposits in,
56;

51-52, 53, 55, megalithic architecture

Greenwell, Canon, 88 Grotte de Bize, 51

in, 119,

162
50,
51;

Gro\rth of Civilvuttion, 111

Freeman, Williams, 94, 95
Frere, John, 40, 49,

Grunty Fen to Guide

tore,

the

193, 194 Exhibition

quoted, 50 Frobenius, Leo, 98

Rooms
59

(British

Museum),

Gaylemeuth bones, 51
Gentleman's 182
Magazine,
181,

Hamilton, William, 20

Harappa excavations, 85, 91,

13*

57

Geochronology, 63
Geoffrey of Monmoutli, 26

Harris, Rendell,

30

Haverfield, Professor, 16

Geographic Sacra, 27 Geography, in study of prehistory, 166-67

Hawkes, Christopher, 91, 93, 101, 116

Hebrew
of, 41-

language, 135, 140

Geology, development

46

Hesiod, 23 Himmler,Heinrich, quoted, 143
Hissarlik excavations,

German
tute,

Archaeological

Insti-

144
in,

Historia Britonum,
History,

64 26
mate-

Germania Antiqua, 144 Germany, 120; archaeology
during
nineteenth

rial for,

antiquities as 22-23; divisions of,

century,

16
History of Ashur-bani-pal

the 144-45; Foundations of

Nineteenth

Century

pub-

...

7

186

lished in, 140, 141; racism
in, 137, 138, 140, 141, 143,

History of

Man, The, Coon's,
48

144, 146, 147

171, 172, 181 History of Staffordshire,

214
tiquaries,

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
50
of in

History of the Society of AnHistory of the Warfare Science v&fc Theology

Indus Valley, 125 Ingram, Bruce, 85, 188
Iraq,

125

Ireland, prehistory of, 27, 30,

Christendom, 24
History of Warwickshire, 47 History sensu stricto, defined,

36, 101

Iron Age, 66, 75, 77, 97, 100, 101, 102, 156
Irvine,
Israel,

15
Hitler, Adolf, quoted,

147

William, 185 Lost Tribes of, 27-28,

Hittites, 85 Hoaie, Ricliard Colt, 23, 56;

quoted, 35-36

4 115cave art in, 73 Ithaca excavations, 64
Italy,

Holmes, Rice, 77, 100, 101, 116 Holocene epoch, 154

Jackson, Wilfred, Jacob, Ian, 178

no

Homer, 64, 65

Jakeman, Wells, quoted, 81

How Came Civilization?, Home flints, 50
Human Human
History, Smith's,

114

James

I,

28

Jerichoans, 201

no
Mac-

Jews, 135, 136, 140

Origins

.

.

.

,

Curdy's, 99, 117 Jiumanxties. ^"yfo^iffii"^cl ii/mi
natural sciences, 153

Johnson, Samuel, 34, 35, 37; quoted, 33-34, 35
Jones, Inigo, Jones,

28
67,

Hutton, James, 43 Huxley, T. H, 105, 185, 187
Hyperdiffusionism,

Josiah

Wood, 38 Mason Lectures,

147, 162, 164

103, 108, 109, 113, 117, 118, 139

Iberia,

131-32

Kemble, John, 58 Kendrick, Thomas, 26, 101 Kent's Cavern, 52, 54,
180
Khorsabad, 183

56,

Ice Age, 63, 126
Illustrated

London News,

85,

188
In the Beginning: The Origin of CwKxation, no
Incas,

Kidd, John, quoted, 45-46 Knossos, 84, 85 Kossinna, Gustaf, 144, 145,

123
.
.
.

146
,

Incidents of Travel in Central

America

So
199

Lagash, 85

India, 91, 125, 198,

La Mouthe cave
74

art, 72,

73,

Indo-European languages, 130 Indo-Cermanic languages, 130 Indonesia, 126

Language, and prehistory, 1293

INDEX
Lascaux
paintings,

215
early, discovery of, 4656; three ages of, 56-59

69,

162,

Malta, 119

i93> X 94> *99 Late Bronze Age,

Man,
100,

101,

13 1 ' 1 3 a *34 Layard, Austen Heniy, 183, 184 Ledetraad til Nordisk Oldkyndighed, 40, 57

Man Makes
Map,

Himself, 121

distribution, 95,

96

Marek, Kurt, 178 Marshall, John, 85

Leo XIII, Pope, 171
Les Combarelles cave
art, 72,

Mason

Lectures, 67, 147, 162,

73 Letoumeau, Charles, 171 Lhuyd, Edward, 94, 152, 153 Lhuyd, Humphrey, 19 Lightfoot, John, 25, 37, 38 Lister, Martin, 153 Little Woodbury houses, 201

164 Master Race myth, 139, 140, 141, 142 Materials of prehistory, 17 Mayas, 80, 81, 82, 123 Mechanics' Institutes, 180
Mediterranean
*35> X 4*
racial type, 134,

Long Barrows

of

the

Cots-

Megalithic
nesia,

wolds, The, 94 .Lost Tribes of Israel, 27-28, 115. 12 4

Culture of IndoThe, 111 Megalithic tombs, 30, 31, 32,
36, 111, 118-19, 120, 134,

Lovejoy, Arthur, 34

135

Lower

Paleolithic cultures, 155

Mem Kampf,

141

Lowie, R. H.,
113, 121, 171

107;

quoted,
58,

Lubbock, John,

14,

59,

Mesopotamia, 121, 173, 183 Metallurgical analysis, 155 Methods and Aims in Archaeology, 88 Middle Bronze Age, 101, 134 Middle East, 84

60, 61, 63, 66, 75, 76, 77,

7*
Lucretius, 23
Lyell, Charles, 40, 44, 45, 55,

Migrations of Early Culture,

105 Lyte, Henry Maxwell, 171 Lyttelton, Charles, 48; quoted,
56, 58, 63,

no
Minoans, 100, 173 Mirage, Oriental, 76
Mitchell, Arthur, 70; quoted,

49

7
Mitfbrd, John, 181
Macalister, Alexander, 99, 108

Modem

Historians

and the

MacCurdy, George Grant, 99,
117 MacEnery,
J., 52, 54 Mackinder, Halford, 169

Maiden Castk

excavations, 91

Study of History, 200 Mohenjo-Daro, 85, 130, 157 Molyneux, Thomas, 31 Mono. Antiqua pjestaurata, 26 Monboddo, Lord, 33, 34, 78

2l6

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
New
Grange, 30, 31, 32, 36,
cultural
origins,

Montelius, Oscar, 66; quoted,

76 Montfaucon, Bernard de, 48 Monuments of Nineveh, The,
184

119

New World
122-25, 126

Newbury Museum, 189
Newton, Isaac, 153 Niaux paintings, 199
Nilsson, Sven, 78,

Morgan, Lewis H., 79, 80, 81, 148, 161
Mortfflet, Gabriel de, 17, 63,

79

67,68,71,72,96,101,117
Mosaic
also

Nhnrud excavations, 183
Nineveh, 183, 186 Nineveh and Its Remains, 184 Nordic racial type, 133, 138,

chronology,

61;

see
his-

Christianity, early tory dated by

Murray, John, 184
Mussolini, Benito, 146

142

Nonnan Conquest, 131
Notes and Queries, 182 Nyerup, Rasmus, 57; quoted,

Mycenae, 65, 76, 119

Narbonne Museum, 51
National

Museum

(CopenObermaier, Hugo, 97

hagen), 40, 57 Natural History of Man, The,

62
Natural sciences, distinguished from humanities, 153 Natural Theology
Pale/s, 39,

Dyke, 94 Olympia excavations, 69, 145 O'Nefl, B. H. St. J., 91 On f he Origin and Progress of
Language, 33 Orient und Europa, 76
Origin of Magic and Religion, The, 111

O&Js

40

Nazism, 137, 138, 141, 143,
Neanderthal man, 55-56

Near

Origin of Species, 40, 44, 139,

East, 84, 121, 125, 173,

185
Origin of the Family, 148 T Rfordain, Sean, 91

183, 198, 199

Nenia Bntamica or the Sepulchral History of Great Brit-

O

am, 22
Nennius, 26
Neolithic Age, 58, 62, 63, 66, 76, 77, 100, 101, 116, 160,

Osborn, Henry Fairfield,
quoted, 142 Outline of History, 172, 181

161
Ntoftftic

Pair-non-Pair,

72

Cultures
Isles,

of

the

Palenque, 70, 80
Paleolithic

Britah
Neolithic

116
121,

Revolution,

127, 199, 200

Age, 58, 63, 66, 7 2 77^ 97- Il6 > *99 Palestine, 125, 173

INDEX
Paley, William, 39, and n., 40 hyperdiffusionPan-Egyptian ism, 109-14, 115, 119, 121
Paris Exposition

217
Communities
Isles,
.

Prehistoric

of

the British
Prehistoric Prehistoric

The, 101

(1867), 67,

. , 175 Europe . Foundations of

68
Passage graves, 99, 101, 119,

Europe, 116
Prehistoric Times, 14, 58, 59,

120
Passing
of

60, 61, 63, 64, 75, 77, 84,

the

Great Race,

i?4
Prehistory, Burkitt's, 99, 117,

142
Paviland, 52, 56 Pazyrik barrows, 65

178
Prestwich, Joseph, 45, 53, 55,

Peake,

H.

J.

E.,

121,

122,

63
Prichard,

189 PengeBy,

James Cowles, 62;

William,

54,

56,

180, 181, 184

quoted, 62 Primeval Antiquities of Den-

Peny,

W. J.,
113,

30, 77, 102,

in,
119,

mark, The, 75
Primitive Culture, 13, 69, 83,

112,

114,

115,

Personality

139; quoted, 112-13 of Britain,

The,

104, 106 Primitive Inhabitants of Scan-

169
Perfhes,

dmavia, The, 78

Boucher de, 53, 54,

Principles of Geology

.

.

.

,

&
Petrie, Flinders, 69, 88, 89 Petrological analysis of stone,
1

40, 44, 45, 53, 58

Pyramids, distinction between Egyptian and Central American, 118; Egyptian,

54-55

111

Phillips,

C. W., 91
75, 124;

Phoenicians,

and
102,

Quaternary Ice Age, 63
Race, and prehistory, 132-36 Racism, 136-44, 146, 147
Radford, C. A. Ralegh, 91

British prehistory, 27,

"5
Piggott, Stuart, 18, 29, 32, 91,

116
Pitt-Rivers,

General,

86,

87,

88, 89, 90, 93, 107 Pleistocene epoch, 154
Plot, Robert, 29, 47,

Radio programs, on archaeology* *79
Radioactive carbon dating, 63, 92, 96, 124, 126, 154

48

Polyolbion, 20
Portugal, 101, 120

Powicke, F. M., quoted, 20001

Ragfcn, Lord, 77, 102, 115. 116, 139; quoted, 114 Rawlinson, George, 61, 183 Red Lady of Pavfland, 52

PownaH, Thomas,
79; quoted, 32

31, 34, 78,

Reinach, Salomon, 76
ReZzgto Medici, 38

2l8

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
.

, 43 Reliquiae DUuvianae Researches into the Early His. .

tory of Mankind, 105 Researches into the Physical

History of

Man, 62

Skara Brae houses, 201 Smith, Charles Roach, 182 Smith, George, 186, 187 Smith, Grafton Elliot, 30, 77, 102, 104, 106, 108, 110-19
pass.,

Revue Scient&que, 72 Rhys Lecture (1954), 2 *> Richmond, Ian, 91 Rome, 80, 146 Rowlands, Henry, 26, 27 Royal Society, 55, 152, 153

no,

149; quoted, 112, 113-14

108-09,

Smith, William, 42, 44
Social Evolution, 162

Society for Biblical Archaeology, 187 Society of Antiquaries of London, 21, 22, 48, 49, 50, 55,

Sahara, and Toynbee, 173

65, 182
Sollas,

Sammes,

Aylett, 27,

28

W.

J.,

158

Sautuola, Marcelino de, 69, 72

Somme

gravels, 50, 53, 56, 58,

Schaafhausen, 55 Schliemann, Heinrich, 64, 65,
?6, 145

Schmerling, 52 Schneider, Hermann, quoted,

63 South Devon, 50, 54, 58 Southwest Asia, 80 Soviet Union, particular brand
of prehistory taught in, 14749, 161, 164 Spain, 101, 119, 132; Basque language in, 132; cave art in,

*43
Science, definitions of, 152-54
Scientific

method, 154
primitivists,

Scotland Before the Scots, 164
Scottish
32,

73
Spectator, 181

34,

35

Spencer, Herbert, 67, 68, 160
Spengler, Oswald,
Stalin, Josef,

Seamer Mesolithic settlement,
92
Secret

70

147

of

the

Hittites,

The,

Stanwick excavations, 91
Stephens, John Uoyd, 80 StiR Digging, 90 Stone Age, 50, 58, 59, 62, 63,

178
Sedgwick,

Adam, 42, 45

Sedgwick, William, 42

Segontium, 90, 91
Semitic languages, 140 Sennacherib, 183

7 75> 79* 97. *99 Stone tools, 47-52 pass., 54, 57; Abbevfflian, 53, 55
Stonehenge, 28, 29, 95, 156, 201 Stonehenge, Stukeley's, 29 Story of Man, The, 171, 172, 181

Sequences, typological, 87
'

183 Shells as Evidence of the MiIII,

Shalmaneser

grations

of

Early

Culture,

no

INDEX
Strata Identified
Fossils,

21 9

by Organized

Troy, 64, 65

42

Stratigraphy, 42, 46, 58, 59

Study of Archaeology, 175 Stukeley, William, 29
Sumeria, 77, 85, 115, 125, 201

Tutankhamen, 85 Twyne, John, 27, 28 Tylor, Edward B., 13, 69, 70,
79, 83, 104, 105, 106, 107, 160; quoted, 105

Sweden, 120
Switzerland, 62

Typology, 87, 89
Unifonnitarianism, 44, 45, 46,

Tallgren, A. M., 147 Tasmanians, 160

56
Universal
Earliest

History

Taxfla excavations, 91
Taylor, Television
history,

from the Account of Time,
(Oxford),

W. W.,

175

15

programs,

on

pre-

University

Museum

179 Ten-Tribists, 28
Teutons, 138, 140, 142

87, 106

Upper

Paleolithic art, 69, 71,

201 73, 82, 92, 105,

Textbook of European Archaeology,

99

Ur,8 5 Urban Revolution, 121, 127
Ussher, James, 24, 37

Theory of the Earth

,43

Thompson, Campbell, 85
Thorns,

Uxmal,8o
VaUancey, Charles, 30, 31 Victorians, and prehistory, 6081

W. J.,

182

Thomsen, Christian Juigensen,
161 40, 57, 66, 74, 86, Three Age system, 66, 74, 75,
79, 86, 149

Times andPlaces, 121, 122
Tollund peat-bog, 65, 133, 156

Wales, 27, 101, 131, 169

Walpole,

Horace,

22,

32;

Tombs,
*35

megalithic, 30, 31, 32, 36, in, 118-19, 120, 134,

quoted, 21 Ward, John, 90

Tools, see Stone tools

Webb, John, 28 Wedgwood, C. V.,

180 Torquay, 52, 54, 56, Tout, T. F., quoted, 195 Toynbee, Arnold J., 70, 172,
i?3

quoted, 196 Wells, H.G., 172, 181 Wessex culture, 101
in History?,

What Happened

174

121, 122, 171, 172

Tradescant, John, 20
Tree-coffins,

134

Tievelyan, George, quoted, 165
Trojans, and British prehistory,
26, 115

Wheeler, Mortimer, 90, 91, 169; quoted, 90 White, A. P., 24 Whitehouse, W. E., 168, 169 Who Are the Welsh?, 26

22O

THE IDEA OF PREHISTORY
Woolley, Leonard, 85, 93

Wilberforce, Bishop, 185 Williams, V. Nash, 91

Works and Days, 23
Woisaae,
17,

Wilson, Angus, quoted, 193 Wilson, Daniel, 13, 15, 19, 59,

74,

75,

77;

quoted, 75

178
Wilson,
J.

Wright, Thomas, quoted, 59
T.,

108

Wiltshire barrows, 23, 35

Windmill
180

Winckler, Hugo, 84 Hfll Cave, 54, 101,

Yang Shao Tsun, 83 Young, G. M., 180; quoted,
186

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glyn Daniel is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology of St. John's College, Cambridge, and Lecturer in Archaeology in the University. He came up to Cambridge as an undergraduate in 1932 and has been there ever since, except during the Second World War, when he served as an intelliJP. dealing with the interpretagence officer in the tion of aerial photographs. His own researches have been mainly in the history of archaeology and megalithic monuments. He is the author of The Three Ages,

RA

The

Prehistoric

Wales,

A

Chamber Tombs of England and Hundred Years of Archaeology, A Picture

Book of Ancient British Art (with Stuart Piggott), Lascawc and Carnac, Barclodiad y Gawres (with T. G.
E. Powell),

and The

Prehistoric

The Megalith Builders of Western Europe, Chamber Tombs of France.

THIS BOOK

WAS

SET IN

ELECTRA AND PERPETUA TYPES BY

HARRY SWEETIMAN TYPESETTING CORPORATION.
IT

WAS PRINTED AND BOUND AT THE

PRESS OF

THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY.
DESIGN
IS

BY JACK JAGET

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